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Questions Regarding Current Conditions

Q: Is the temporary bridge safe?

A: Yes. MassDOT Highway Division conducts frequent maintenance on the temporary bridge as well as scheduled and spot inspections to ensure its safety.

Q: What are the regulations regarding when the bridge can open?

A: Regulations about when the Fore River Bridge can open are set by the United States Coast Guard. Regulations regarding the operation of the Fore River Bridge can be seen in the lower right corner of this linked document.

Q: Can you tell me the proportion of openings requested by ship type?

A: The design team researched the average percentage of openings triggered by the different ship types using data gathered between 2005 and 2009. For example, during this time, 14% of openings were caused by the tall masts of sloops, the main type of recreational sailboat in the Fore River basin.   Average openings depicted as a pie chart.

Questions on the Replacement Bridge

Q: Who will be responsible for the new Fore River Bridge's upkeep and maintenance once it's complete? Who's going to take care of day-to-day work like replacing burned out light bulbs and plowing snow?

A: Until the new bridge is complete and accepted by MassDOT, the design/build team is responsible for its maintenance. Once MassDOT accepts the bridge, the agency will take over all maintenance tasks, including, but not limited to, removal of snow from vehicle lanes, bicycle lanes and sidewalks, changing failed light bulbs and removing any graffiti from the structure.

Q: What are the bicycle accommodations going to be on the new bridge?

A: The new bridge will include a painted bicycle lane in each direction. The pre-25% design included bicycle-accommodating shoulders. Generally, bicycle lanes are seen as a better accommodation for cyclists.

Q: Could there be a physical barrier between the vehicle and bicycle lanes?

A: The idea of the bicycle lanes on the bridge is to allow vehicles and bicycles to operate as they do on urban streets striped with bicycle lanes. Typically, under such circumstances, a physical barrier is not present. Implementation of a barrier on the bridge represents some specific challenges because of the movable span. A raised obstacle, such as a jersey barrier, would present a launching hazard for automobiles, add weight to the lifting span, and narrow the available room for cyclists. It is also possible that it would cause problems with snow removal. Rumble strips, suggested by community members in the public involvement process, would not be considered safe for installation on this bridge per MassDOT and FHWA guidelines and would likewise narrow the width of space available for bicycles.

Q: What about a tunnel or fixed crossing? Wouldn’t these options let traffic flow without interruption?

A: In 2002, during the construction of the temporary bridge, a report was prepared for MassDOT Highway Division investigating the use of fixed bridge, tunnel and movable span options for the Fore River Bridge site.  It was determined that the fixed bridge and tunnel would have resulted in significant land-takings, substantial alterations to the surrounding neighborhoods and the need to relocate many local businesses. While these options would allow uninterrupted vehicular traffic flow, the community impacts, environmental impacts, and project costs were determined to both be too high. In addition, a tunnel would not provide bicycle or pedestrian accommodations. Based on this study, MassDOT selected a design team  to determine the most appropriate movable bridge type and to progress that design to the 25% level.

Q: The new bridge is going to be a vertical lift bridge. Will it be like the temporary structure?

A: No.  The new, permanent vertical lift bridge will not resemble the current temporary span in operation or appearance.

The temporary bridge has a number of problems including:

  • A less-than-pleasing appearance;
  • Difficulty of operation in cold weather and high winds;
  • A noisy ride for motorists and abutters;
  • An undesirable roadway alignment for traffic;
  • Slow opening and closing times; and
  • A challenging inspection and maintenance regimen that is expensive to MassDOT and inconvenient for motorists when lanes of the bridge must be closed for inspection.

The majority of the problems associated with the temporary bridge are due to the fact that it was designed for a fifteen year life span using economical construction typical of a temporary bridge.

A new, permanent vertical lift will be designed to the latest standards and be attractive, provide a quieter ride, open and close significantly faster than the current span, operate under harsh weather conditions without difficulty and be much less challenging to maintain, ending the regular half closures for inspection and repairs.

Q: Will the new bridge be quieter?

A: The 1936 bridge had a steel open grid deck which generated a characteristic hum. The current ACROW span bridge has its own distinct set of noises because it has a steel plate deck system which rattles when vehicles pass over it.  The proposed bridge will have a solid concrete deck that will generate far less noise than either bridge as vehicles pass over it.

Q: Is there a member of the project team responsible for giving the new bridge an attractive appearance?

A: Rosales + Partners, the design team's bridge architect is internationally recognized for their projects worldwide including the Zakim Bridge in Boston. Members of the Rosales + Partners team have been informed of the comments received from the public to date. They have attended meetings with the public to address comments and have incorporated them to the fullest extent possible. In addition, MassDOT has worked with the local elected officials to ensure that architectural details are incorporated into the design. Touchstone Architecture, a nationally recognized bridge architecture firm from Floria, is assisting the White-Skanska team to ensure that the high aesthetic standard set during the 25% design phase is continued throughout construction.

Q: The new vertical lift bridge option offers a higher vertical clearance in the closed position; how will this impact traffic flow?

A: The additional vertical clearance offered by the vertical lift bridge means that most recreational sailboats in the Fore River basin will be able to pass under the bridge while it remains in the closed or "down" position. This will help to reduce the number of bridge openings and keep traffic flowing over the bridge during the summer when recreational sloops frequent the Fore River channel. Large ships, like oil tankers, will still require a bridge opening.

Q: The duration of bridge openings and the associated impact on my commute are my chief concerns.  How quickly will the new bridge open and close

A:When discussing a movable bridge, engineers use the term "cycle time" to discuss how long it takes to stop traffic, open the bridge, transit the vessel through the opened bridge, close the bridge, and restart traffic. Thanks to modern lifting machinery, the vertical lift bridge would be able to open in 2.5 minutes, allow a ship to pass and then close in 2.5 minutes.
This opening and closing time will be significantly shorter than the current temporary bridge. The time taken for the ship to pass will vary depending on the type of vessel.

Q: Could the bridge be raised partially to facilitate the passage of smaller vessels that still require an opening and help get traffic moving again that much sooner?

A:According to 33 Code of Federal Regulations 117.5 a movable bridge must open fully when passage is requested by a vessel. As regards to a vertical lift bridge, the United States Coast Guard interprets this regulation as stipulating that the bridge must rise to its full air draught, or all the way up, for any vessel seeking to transit it.

Q: There are other 225-foot bascule bridges in the United States, so why didn't MassDOT select one?

A:The bascule bridge alternative presented in the EA had a 315-foot span length (trunnion-to-trunnion distance) and 225-foot navigable opening width (horizontal channel clearance). When the leaves rise into their near-vertical open position, the supporting structure under the roadway deck extends towards the navigation channel requiring the trunnions (points of rotation) to be set back significantly from the edge of the navigation channel.

This is true for all bascule bridges. Thus, bascule bridges identified as having lengths of 225 ft. or greater actually span much narrower navigation channels.

It is also important to note that some internet sources for movable bridge data do not provide accurate information on bridge span lengths.

To date the design team has only been able to confirm the presence of one United States bascule bridge with a longer span than the EA bascule alternative: the Charles Berry Bridge (CBB) in Lorain, Ohio.  This bridge was mentioned in the EA as an example of the potential maintenance and replacement part issues associated with bascule structures of extreme size. Because of current engineering design standards, current code requirements, and the heavier weight resulting from the increased live load requirements, the addition of fatigue and seismic loadings to the design criteria, the increased wind and other lateral load provisions, the wider bridge cross section to meet current safety provisions (CBB is only 62 feet wide with four travel lanes and two sidewalks, which would not meet current design criteria, the closed deck system (CBB has an open grate deck, which would not be acceptable to the community), and the much more conservative mechanical design criteria in today's code, a bascule bridge at the Fore River site would occupy a much larger footprint for the supports and would entail much larger structural components and mechanical equipment than at the CBB.

Questions About the Navigation Channel

Q: Why does the horizontal channel clearance of the new bridge need to be wider than the channel clearance of the 1936 bridge?

A: The 1936 bridge and its current temporary replacement both provide ships with a 175-foot wide channel clearance. As a result of numerous allisions (collisions by a ship) to the former and current temporary bridge, it is generally agreed by both maritime stakeholders, the United States Coast Guard and MassDOT that 175 feet does not provide an adequate buffer for ships given the winds, cross currents and geometry of the bridge location. The mariners had requested a 300-foot wide navigation channel under the bridge; however, in the interests of balancing the needs of all the users of the bridge, the new Fore River Bridge will cross a channel width of 250 feet to safely accommodate navigational needs.

Q: Why does the navigation channel need to be so wide?

A: The existing navigation channels approaching the bridge site measure at least 400 feet or more on the inboard side of the bridge and measure 300 feet on the outbound side of the turning basin immediately outboard of the bridge so the 175-foot existing channel clearance represents a significant obstruction.  The proposed 250-foot channel width at the bridge site represents a lessening of that restriction and will provide a safe navigation channel.

Q: Did MassDOT consider a 200-foot navigable opening width?

A: During the earlier stages of design development, a 200-foot navigable opening alternative was evaluated.  However, there are multiple challenges associated with a bridge providing a navigable opening narrower than the 250-foot preferred alternative.  In order to fully understand the context of the horizontal channel opening in a bridge replacement project over a navigable waterway, there are a number of factors that must be considered, many of which relate directly to the Project's ability to meet the Purpose and Need as outlined in Chapter 2 of the EA.  They include:

  • Limiting conflicts between proposed work and existing infrastructure in the waterway;
  • Protecting the proposed bridge from damage caused by allisions (collisions by a ship);
  • Potentially accommodating future vessel types (without deepening the channel);
  • Achieving a navigable opening width acceptable to marine users and applicable permitting agencies; and
  • Maintaining consistency with CZM policies related to the Designated Port Area.

Q: Is Citgo the only stakeholder asking for a wider channel opening?

A: All maritime stakeholders, including the United States Coast Guard, would prefer a wider channel opening. The old Fore River Shipyard remains a Coastal Zone Management-Designated Port Area and a new bridge that will exist for 75 years must not preclude renewed marine activity and/or water dependent industrial uses at this site.  

For more on what constitutes a Designated Port Area, please visit the relevant section of the Office of Coastal Zone Management's website.  

Questions on Construction

Q: What are the project limits of work?

A: The total length of the Fore River Bridge project is 0.96 miles from the intersection of Washington Street/Cleverly Court in Quincy to the intersection of Bridge Street/Evans Street in Weymouth. This includes the temporary bridge, it's replacement, and the rotary in Quincy.

Q: How much will this project cost?

A: The winning bid by White-Skanska was $244 million.  In addition to the bid amount, MassDOT has an allowance for items such as traffic police details, contractor incentives and contingencies.  This allowance totals approximately $26 million.  As such, the total contract value for the replacement of the Fore River Bridge is around $272 million.  Approximately $213 million (roughly 80%) will be funded by federal dollars, with the remaining 20% coming from the Commonwealth.  Anyone seeking further information about how the project is being funded is welcome to contact us.

Q: Will there be land takings associated with the new bridge?

A: The new bridge does not require takings of homes or businesses. Temporary construction easements and/or sliver takings may be required.

Q: How will you build the new bridge?

A: The Fore River Bridge is being constructed by a design/build team by a joint venture of J.F. White and Skanska-Koch. The design phase of the design/build process has been largely completed as of fall 2013. The project can be thought of as having 3 major phases. In the first phase, the bridge's towers are built. As the towers begin to take shape, approach spans will be erected from the towers towards the river banks. At the same time, the movable span will be constructed in the Fore River Shipyard. Once complete, it will be barged down the river and lifted into position.

The next phase consists of connecting the existing approach ramps to the new approach spans. This phase involves the temporary reduction of capacity on the existing bridge to a single lane in each direction. This period is anticipated to be approximately four months during the summer of 2015.

In the final phase, the existing temporary bridge is demolished and the waterfront amenities in Weymouth restored to their original condition.

Q:What will happen to traffic patterns during the four month period in 2015 when the temporary bridge is reduced to a single lane in each direction?

A: The design/build team has already established a set of locations for Variable Message Sign (VMS) boards along the the approaches to the Fore River Bridge which will warn motorists to divert, if possible, before reaching a point where they must either travel over the temporary bridge or abutting local streets in Quincy and Weymouth. Intersections that the project team believe to be along the most intuitive detour route, Route 53, Church Street and Green Street will begin receiving upgrades in the spring of 2014 to ensure that they can handle the projected diversion of traffic. The project team continues to coordinate with Braintree, Quincy and Weymouth to ensure that the four month diversion period has manageable impacts on these communities.

Public Involvement Process

Q: Will you work with the community to address traffic during construction?

A: Yes. Throughout the public involvement process, members of the design team have specifically welcomed members of the community to send in their comments about the temporary bridge construction process.  The design team also worked with the police departments and traffic engineering staff in both Quincy and Weymouth to develop plans keep traffic moving during construction.  Now that the job has entered the design/build phase, the project team continues to coordinate with the abutting municipalities regarding construction period traffic.

Q: How are my comments used?

A: Your comments are important to the project team. During the design phase, the project team had to file with a number of federal agencies to obtain needed permits. These agencies would not have granted the needed permits had they determined that the public involvement process had not been open and effective in responding to community concerns. All comments received were incorporated into the design to the extent possible within the scope and budget of the project. In addition, public comments helped to form the special provisions and specifications that the project team wrote into the design/build package.

Comments continue to be welcome during the design/build construction phase.  If you would like to add your comments to those already received by the project team, please feel free to email or telephone the project's public involvement specialist. For immediate concerns regarding construction operations, we invite you to call the project hotline which is staffed whenever work is underway: 617-504-2924.

Q: I am concerned about the environmental process.  How can I obtain copies of the data that went into the NEPA Environmental Assessment and other permitting documents?

A: The Environmental Assessment (EA) and supporting documentation was completed in December 2010 and FHWA issued a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) in December 2011 in accordance with the NEPA process. You can find more information about the NEPA process by visiting this Federal Highway Administration web page.  A copy of the EA is available on this website.  A copy of the FONSI and its supporting documentation are also available.  

Q: I submitted a comment during the Environmental Assessment (EA) comment period (December 13, 2010 to January 26, 2011). What happened to my comment?

A: Whether you sent your comment on the EA to MassDOT or FHWA, please be advised that both agencies shared the comments they received to be sure they were identified and reviewed.  In consultation with FHWA, MassDOT prepared responses to the comments received in compliance with NEPA requirements.  Your comment and its response in the Responses to Comments on the Environmental Assessment document are available from this website.


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