MBTA bridge work to close river channel

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. The Gloucester MBTA drawbridge, which crosses the Annisquam River, continues to be overhauled. Beginning April5 and continuing through the month,  The river channel under the bridge will be closed to vessel traffic Mondays through Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m

By rail and by water, the ongoing MBTA bridge replacement project continues to disrupt the lives of Cape Ann riders along the Rockport commuter rail line and mariners on the Annisquam River.

The next major disruption for mariners is scheduled to begin April 5, when the full river channel through the $100 million project will be closed to all vessel traffic Mondays through Saturdays, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The closures, set to continue until April 30, are to accommodate a 100-foot by 30-foot work barge and pile-driving system that will be used to drive support piles for the bridge's fendering system. The MBTA said the barge and associated equipment will be moved from the channel after working hours and vessel access will resume.

"They're really trying to get the fender piles in," said city harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro, who added that there will be a city harbormaster/police boat stationed on detail at the site during the hours of the closed vessel access.

The closure will block all northbound and southbound marine traffic beneath the 110-year-old railroad bridge that connects West Gloucester to Gloucester proper. Boats on the north side of the bridge will need to take the long route up the Annisquam, out Ipswich Bay and around Cape Ann to reach any points east and south of Gloucester and Rockport.

 

Vessel operators can reach the harbormaster staff on VHF Channel 16/13. Other questions may be addressed to the MBTA resident engineer, Matt Morehouse, at 617-839-8075 or sector Boston waterways manager Tim Chase at 617-447-1620.

The scheduled April closures are the most recent in a series of river channel closures since the project began in 2018. Ciarametaro said the project might require one or two daily vessel closures in May, but nothing on the order of the April closures.

The state Department of Transportation is more than halfway — at least by calendar — into the project that began in 2018 and is expected to be completed in 2022. MBTA officials told the Gloucester City Council last week that they expect to return one track to Rockport to service this summer.

The project has included the demolition of the old timber trestle on the southern side of the bridge that connects West Gloucester to Gloucester proper and ferries MBTA commuter rail trains over the Annisquam.

The new drawbridge, according to MassDOT, will include side-by-side movable bridges, an updated east approach trestle and a relocated control tower on the Gloucester station side of the bridge.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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