Rocks Village Bridge Reopens Oct. 10; Haverhill Councilor Says Repair Costs Justify Truck Ban

State officials closed the Rocks Village Drawbridge March 17, between Haverhill and West Newbury. (Mike Jarvis photograph for WHAV News.)

Haverhill City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan. (WHAV News file photograph.)

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation says the Rocks Village Bridge, between Haverhill and West Newbury, is set to reopen Monday, Oct. 10, after seven months of being out of service.

City Councilor Thomas J. Sullivan, advocating for a total truck ban on the span over the Merrimack River, plans to discuss his research at next week’s City Council meeting. After reaching out to the state Transportation Department, Sullivan said in an email, he has the evidence to support the truck exclusion.

“Hoping that by showing the millions of dollars spent on bridge reconstruction and repairs multiple times since then, the state will have to come up with a better solution than more signage and barrier bars on each side of the bridge,” Sullivan said. “Goal is still a heavy commercial truck exclusion.”

The bridge closed for repairs on March 17 after an over height truck collided with it. The Rocks Village Bridge was previously rehabilitated from 2013-2014 and the project cost $12.6 million. Ten incidents have damaged the bridge since.

According to the state Highway Division Legislative Liaison Daniel Fielding, the latest repairs are estimated to cost around $2 million. The amount is expected to be reimbursed from the department’s Accident Recovery Program paid by responsible parties’ insurance companies. Fielding detailed for Sullivan accidents on the bridge, including two in 2014; one each during 2017, 2018 and 2019; five in 2020; and this year’s crash.

This past spring, Haverhill city councilors voted 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.

State Reps. Christina A. Minicucci and Lenny Mirra both gave updates this week on social media, describing the bridge’s final stages of completion.

In August, Mirra described to WHAV the danger over height trucks have to the bridge.

“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 said.

According to Minicucci and Mirra, the contractor is installing the remaining structural steel components and completing bolt testing. Once repairs are done, supporting jacks will be removed to allow the mechanical elements, such as the swing span, to be tested over two to three days. Finally, the bridge will be put in the closed position and the new steel parts are going to be painted. This process is scheduled to begin on Monday, Oct. 3, and may take a week, depending on weather conditions.

Now, Minicucci says the state is still planning advance warning signage and in-lane pavement markings on both sides of the bridge.

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