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November 13, 2012

MBTA ties hour delay to train, not bridge

Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail officials are blaming an engine failure for delaying a Rockport line commuter train 60 minutes Monday night, halting the train on the 100-year-old Annisquam River drawbridge.

The train had been set to arrive in Gloucester about 6:30 p.m., but sat weighing on the old bridge until about 7:30 p.m., according to Rhiannon D’Angelo, a spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Rail (MBCR).

”Though the locomotive engine failure occurred on the Gloucester drawbridge, it was unrelated to the bridge itself,” D’Angelo said.

The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) had previously outlined plans to begin replacing the bridge, declared in a 2010 safety report as the bridge is in the worst shape of all the bridges in the MBTA Commuter Rail System.

And the MBTA put the estimated $34 million “full replacement” project out to bid by this fall, with two contractors vying for the job.

Crews are expected to take some 17 months in the spring to carry out the bridge replacement, which will be done by rotating trains between its two tracks — keeping one track and thus rail service open throughout the work period.

After an afternoon bridge shutdown in January for emergency repairs, officials began limiting the train speed to 10 mph as cars creaked across the bridge.

Targeted repairs at that point were defined by MBTA officials, including rusting and corroded steel, missing bolts and rivets, deteriorating timber “piles” or pillars, and pockets of joint-weakening corrosion in the bridge’s steel. Two weeks after the January emergency repairs, plans that had initially called for scheduled repairs emerged as calling for the bridge’s full replacement in the spring.

In the meantime, MBCR engineers perform monthly safety inspections on the bridge as they do with all MBCR drawbridges, and bridge tenders perform daily “visual inspections,” according to D’Angelo.

“There is a wide range of inspections done on drawbridges,” she said. “Visual inspections are done on a daily basis by bridge tenders that look and walk the bridge.”

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.

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