The A. Piatt Andrew Bridge is undergoing an inspection that was scheduled to include lane closures for much of two weeks.
But the state's Department of Transportation temporarily halted the inspection work Tuesday due to what spokesman Patrick Marvin called "traffic conditions." The work Monday and Tuesday spawned backups of a mile or more heading into central Gloucester and toward Rockport.
Marvin said Tuesday that the work was part of a "standard inspection" for the bridge. The inspection comes more than three years after completion of a seven-year, $36.6 million project to repair the A. Piatt Andrew Bridge.
The work was to include the shutdown of one of two northbound lanes through Thursday, July 11, Marvin said. The work began with right-lane closures Monday and Tuesday, and was scheduled to shift to single-lane shutdowns on the southbound side beginning Friday, and continuing on July 17 and 18.
Marvin said there were no specific concerns that brought about the inspection.
"It's a routine inspection," he said. "We are required to inspect every bridge in the commonwealth at least once every two years."
He did not say when the work would resume or be rescheduled.
The work rekindled memories of when the bridge construction project regularly produced long lines of traffic. The project, ticketed in 2008 to run three years at a cost of $9 million, turned into a two-phase, seven-year boondoggle that was completed in January 2016 at a cost of more than $36 million when crews found the bridge in worse shape than feared.
A 2015 report by the office of state Auditor Suzanne Bump found that the DOT could have avoided “excessive, multi-year delays” and saved up to $2.6 million if it had carried out a pre-project inspection. The report also indicated that by not funding an early inspection, the DOT forced initial contractor SPS-New England of Salisbury to work with outdated data to assess the bridge's needs.
Ken Riehl, CEO of the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce, said Tuesday he would be more concerned about this week's lane closures and bridge traffic's impact on visitors coming into the area if the work was carried out over weekends. That is not the case, Marvin's schedules noted.
"I'm sure it's slowing down commuters, but we would worry more if it were on nice weekend days this time of year," said Riehl, who lives in Essex and conceded he takes Route 133 and Essex Avenue into Gloucester rather than Route 128 and the bridge. "This is when we do get a lot of traffic coming in — and we are seeing that — but it would be more of a concern on a weekend when people are flocking to our beaches."
The bridge lane closures and traffic come as the DOT and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority continue work on the Annisquam River rail drawbridge just down the river from the A. Piatt Andrew. That bridge project has shut down rail traffic between West Gloucester and Rockport, with shuttle buses taking passengers to and from West Gloucester to the main Gloucester and Rockport stations.
That work and the bus shuttles, which have twice been extended beyond their initial schedule, are due to end Sunday, with regular and full rail traffic set to resume Monday, July 15.
Ray Lamont can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.