MBTA seeking permit for bridge work

PAUL BILODEAU/Staff photo. The MBTA is seeking new permits to work underwater on Annisquam River train drawbridge, pictured here. 4/22/20

Construction on the MBTA's Gloucester drawbridge is moving not only forward, but under water. 

The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is seeking a permit from the New England District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineering to conduct work in the Annisquam River in conjunction with the reconstruction of the 109-year-old drawbridge. 

"The work involves the complete reconstruction of the railroad bridge, which has reportedly reached the end of its useful life," according to the public notice posted by the U.S. Army Corps. 

The state Department of Transportation is in the midst of a four-year, $80 million project to replace the drawbridge, which was identified in a 2011 safety study as being in the worst structural condition of any bridge within the MBTA system.

Work to replace the Gloucester drawbridge — which carries the Rockport Line over the Annisquam River — started in 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in 2022. 

The finished project will include:

New side-by-side single track moveable bridges.

Updated east approached trestle with pre-stressed box beams on top of drilled shafts.

* Relocated control tower. The tower move to the Gloucester Station side of the bridge

The proposed work in need of a Corps of Engineers permit includes installing shafts to support the new bridge, removing existing timber pilings, removal of the existing fender system and pilings, replacing the fender system with a new fender, installation of a sheet pile retaining wall and associated backfill long the south side of the west causeway in order to allow for construction of a new track. 

The dredging portion of this project will impact approximately 402 square feet of essential fish habitat (EFH), which can be described as subtotal mudflat. 

Harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro confirmed that the dredging is "not to increase navigational draft," and more to lay cables. 

Aware of the potential effects this part of the project could have on the habitat, "further consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding EFH conservation recommendations is being conducted," wrote Timothy Dugan of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in an email to the Times.

According to the public notice, work will be done such that only one of the two tracks will taken out of serve at a time, so that train operations can continue during construction.

The U.S. Army Corps is soliciting comments from the public; federal state, and local agencies and officials; Indian tribes; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of this proposed construction. 

Comments can be submitted in writing to alan.r.anacheka-nasemann@usace.army.mil until May 21. 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

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