It has been almost five months since the Rocks Village Drawbridge, between Haverhill and West Newbury, closed after being struck by an over height truck, and state Rep. Lenny Mirra says the state is hastening its usual repair process.
Mirra, a guest of WHAV’s morning show Monday, explains the state Department of Transportation plans to remove damaged sections even as components are on order.
“It’s like an accordion effect. When you hit that first section of the middle span it just collapses the rest of it. So, now we have to replace several sections of that center span, and it’s a disaster. Now the good news is that (Mass)DOT is putting a priority on this. They’ve ordered the center span components because that’s how these bridges come. They’re in component sections, and they’re going to start ripping apart the old one even before the pieces come. That’s something they don’t usually do, but they’re going to do it here. And so the bridge will get repaired hopefully within the next few weeks, but now we’re faced with the task of making sure this never happens again,” Mirra says.
Mirra has taken an interest in the project and notes the bridge’s importance to Haverhill, West Newbury and Merrimac.
“I do this because I like job sites, you know. I was in the construction industry for a long time, and you learn things when you speak to guys on the job. One thing I learned is that the entrance to the bridge is a lot higher than the middle of the bridge, and it’s the middle portion, that center span, that gets hit. I think what trucks do is that approach the bridge gently. They make it through the first few feet and not hit anything, and they think they’ve got it made. So, they step on it, upshift and so, they hit that center span,” he adds.
Back in March, an over height tractor trailer combination damaged the center span. An initial inspection of the portion of the bridge found, what officials called, “significant damage to several key structural components.”
At the end of May, interim structural elements were put in place of damaged components and safely swing the bridge into the open position, where it has remained since.
Haverhill city councilors voted unanimously this past spring to send letters to Mayor James J. Fiorentini, the state Department of Transportation, state legislators and the town of West Newbury asking for a truck restriction.
Mirra says in most cases state transportation officials would be quick to put up a strike bar, preventing over height trucks. However, because the Rocks Village Bridge is historic, they are in the process of developing renderings of a strike bar that would be aesthetically acceptable to the Haverhill Historical Commission, which would have the final say.