When announced a year ago, the work was estimated to cost $8.5 million.
Work on the steel truss structure over the Annisquam River, similar in engineering to the bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River south of Minneapolis one week ago, is scheduled to begin next spring, MassHighway spokesman John Lamontagne said yesterday.
Lamontagne did not have an official explanation for the 64.7 percent increase in the estimated cost of the project. "Apparently the amount of work involved is greater than was initially contemplated," he said.
The work will include replacing decaying girders with 22,000 pounds of structural steel and repaving all four of the 872-foot lanes to a depth of three feet.
Mayor John Bell said he was surprised to learn that the price had shot up and doubted the increase had anything to do with the delay in starting the project while city officials worked to find an acceptable design for the anti-suicide fencing that will be installed behind the iron grate fence that was part of the original design.
The A. Piatt Andrew Bridge was built in little more than nine months in 1950, at a cost less than the original $8.5 million estimate for its first major rehabilitation. The bridge was ready for traffic more than a year before Route 128, then under construction, reached Gloucester.
Mayor John Bell and the Historical Commission objected to the initial design for the anti-suicide fencing in plans unveiled last August.
Working with MassHighway engineers and the department's Cultural Resources Unit, architect Rob Chandler on behalf of the city suggested a design that would minimize the visibility of the fencing to be erected behind the repainted railing.
Lamontagne said the bridge work is scheduled to go out to bid in the fall.
When the bridge reconstruction was announced last August, work was projected to begin this summer. The MassHighway Web site yesterday listed the start of construction as "winter 2007/2008," though Lamontagne said it would be next spring.
The Historical Commission on Aug. 1 "unanimously approved the design" that included Chandler's improvements to the anti-suicide fencing, The issue has been a sensitive one in the city ever since MassHighway threw up cyclone fencing behind the original railing following a number of leaps from the bridge in the 1990s.
Because of the bridge's historical value - it is considered eligible for the National Register of Historic Structures - the city and state Historical Commission claimed authority to sign off on any rehabilitation work.
Brian McNiff, spokesman for the state Historical Commission, yesterday said the parent agency would wait to review the local commission's letter before deciding whether to join it in authorizing the work.
Typically, the state group follows the lead of its local representatives.
"We've seen nothing yet," McNiff said. "The (state) commission is waiting to see the letter on design changes."
Bell said he was proud of the work done by the Gloucester Historical Commission and hoped MassHighway would organize a public meeting here for the public to review and comment on the planned work to the bridge, named in honor of A. Piatt Andrew of Eastern Point.
Andrew organized volunteers into an ambulance service in France during the first World War, taught Franklin Delano Roosevelt economics at Harvard and was considered the inventor of the Federal Reserve System.
Andrew was the first citizen of Gloucester elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The Gloucester Historical Commission and MassHighway also agreed that the color of the bridge will remain as it is, the standard issue light green.
Research by MassHighway and city officials failed to find color photos of the original paint job on the bridge.
The 325-foot long bridge over the Annisquam River shares the same steel arch construction as the bridge over the Mississippi River, three times as long and built in 1967, that collapsed a week ago, killing at least five people and injuring more than 100.
The Gloucester bridge is considered structurally deficient, meaning that "load carrying elements are found to be in poor or worse condition due to deterioration and damage." But the Federal Highway Administration notes the "designation does not immediately imply that it is likely to collapse or that it is unsafe," and an inspection six months ago found the bridge safe.
The roadway of the Annisquam River bridge was rebuilt in the 1990s, but the structural steel has not been touched, except for paint, since construction was completed in 1950.