Whittier Bridge Lane Opens; Second Span May be Named for Garrison

The old and new Whittier Bridges before demolition was completed.

A fourth lane of Interstate 95 south on the new $328 million John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge recently opened to traffic.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) said Friday construction at the bridge is on schedule. Construction runs along I-95 from route 286 south to the Amesbury/Salisbury town line near route 110. The former six-lane Whittier Bridge has been replaced with one of two new bridges. Last November, northbound traffic was rerouted to the what will become the new northbound bridge.  A month later, southbound traffic was moved to the structure, while a new southbound bridge is constructed. Demolition of the old bridge was completed last month.

Students at Pentucket Regional High School, Newburyport’s River Valley Charter School and Amesbury Innovation Academy have asked the southbound bridge be named for William Lloyd Garrison, a 19th century abolitionist who mentored Whittier.

“The pairing of the Garrison Bridge with the northbound Whittier Bridge would be a fitting tribute to both men and to Massachusetts’ central role in the effort to end American slavery,” Pentucket student Tia Zanardi said earlier this year. “William Lloyd Garrison was an abolitionist from Newburyport. He and Whittier were good friends in the 1800s, so we believe it would be appropriate for both of the men to have bridges named after them right next to each other.”

In May, Amesbury Rep. James M. Kelcourse and West Newbury Rep. Leonard Mirra filed a bill in the House to name the southbound span after Garrison. The bill is now in the transportation committee for consideration.

Both bridges will eventually carry eight lanes of traffic and feature shared pedestrian and bicycle uses. A path will connect the Newburyport Park and Ride lot on Storey Avenue to route 110 in Salisbury. The additional width associated with the shared use path allows the new northbound bridge to temporarily carry all  I-95 lanes.

The project is scheduled to be completed by August, 2017. Roadway reconstruction is also ongoing at the north end of the project along with bridge construction at route 110, the abandoned railroad and Evans Place.

Whittier was born in Haverhill in 1807.