The plan for the early stages of an estimated $56 million project to reconstruct the 116-year-old Blynman Canal Bridge, also known as the Cut Bridge, will get an virtual airing later this month.

The live virtual public information meeting is meant to acquaint the public with the project to reconstruct the drawbridge carrying Western Avenue (Route 127) over the Blynman Canal (The Cut). The meeting is slated for Feb. 23 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Highway Division’s website.

However, the project is in its early stages and is at least several years away, according to a Massachusetts Department of Transportation spokesperson and state Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, R-Gloucester.

The drawbridge provides one of only two ways on and off the island of Cape Ann for Gloucester and Rockport motorists, the other being the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge carrying Route 128 over the Annisquam.

Just as importantly, the drawbridge crosses over the Blynman Canal which provides a vital navigation link between Gloucester Harbor and Ipswich Bay via the Annisquam River for both commercial fishing vessels and recreational boaters whose boats are too tall to get under.

“The Blynman Bridge is over 100 years old,” Mayor Greg Verga said in an email, “and it is time to address the bridge on a larger scale. Over the past several years, extensive work has been done on the bridge, but it has come to a point where a larger renovation is necessary. I will meet with MassDOT and city staff to review the proposed Blynman Canal bridge reconstruction project in the first few weeks of February. This is the early stages of this project, but the public will have an opportunity to learn more at the MassDOT virtual presentation on Feb. 23rd.”

MassDOT’s flyer and the online public hearing notice are short on details.

“A full roadway closure and detour at the movable span will be necessary during portions of the project. Navigation channel closures will be required during portions of the project and coordinated with the United States Coast Guard,” the flyer states.

“The Blynman Bridge reconstruction project timeline is in the early design concept phase,” said Kristen Pennucci, communications director at MassDOT, in an email. “The design concept phase is the first step of many additional design and approval processes that typically take several years and include several public meetings before construction starts.”

The Feb. 23 virtual public meeting would review this process and gather feedback to better inform decisions on the project, she said.

“Traffic management will be addressed as the project design process progresses in the next few years with public input,” Pennucci said. When asked if the old bridge would be left in place while a new one is built, she said the project was still in the early design concept phase “and no final decisions have been made.”

‘Not far off’

Tarr said the replacement of the bridge “is not far off at all.” It’s been discussed for a number of years. Tarr said it was his opinion “a more reasonable timeframe” for the project to start is within the next five to 10 years.

Tarr said the project could move more quickly than that, but it all depends on federal and state highway funding. He said there are a number of variables that could impact the project’s timeline.

Tarr, like Verga, noted the bridge routinely requires repairs. It’s also one of the most active drawbridges on the East Coast. On average, the bridge opens more than 7,300 times a year. It opened 8,668 times in 2019, one of its busiest years.

The bridge work could also have an impact on commercial and recreational marine traffic, Tarr said.

“If it is closed during the summer months it will have a large impact on marinas on the river as there are two marinas that house both commercial and recreational vessels,” said Deputy Harbormaster Chad Johnson in a text message. Johnson noted the Atlantic Bluefin tuna fishing season stays open until December and there are several lobster vessels that make their home port north of the bridge.

Johnson noted that search and rescue in the Annisquam and in the area of Wingaersheek Beach could be delayed as both the Gloucester Harbormaster and the U.S. Coast Guard berth their vessels on the south side of the bridge.

Tarr said there have already been glimpses of what happens when there are problems with the bridge.

As recently as Sept. 23, 2022, the bridge was closed to boat traffic that could not pass safely underneath as MassDOT completed “emergency structural steel repairs,” according to a statement from the agency. The bridge was open to vehicle and pedestrians but was not in use as a drawbridge.

On April 8, 2022, traffic alternated one way as crews conducted deck repairs from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The bridge was closed to boat traffic the day before.

When the bridge underwent a $750,000 structural repair project in 2020, it was closed to marine traffic that could not fit underneath from February to April.

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714, or at

Ethan Forman may be contacted at 978-675-2714, or at

Trending Video

Recommended for you