Rough Design for New Four-Lane Basiliere Bridge Shows Familiar Arches, Vertical Beacons

Open spandrel bridge shows familiar arches and vertical elements that pay homage to the current 1925-era Pfc. Ralph T. Basiliere Bridge. (WHAV News photograph.)

(Additional photograph below.)

Haverhill’s new Pfc. Ralph T. Basiliere Bridge will have four travel lanes, a central pedestrian overlook and feature familiar arches and vertical elements that pay homage to the current 1925-era structure that will start coming down on the summer or fall of its 100th birthday.

The early draft design, called an open spandrel bridge because space between the deck surface and the arch features vertical supports, but is not completely closed, was unveiled during a public meeting Wednesday night in downtown Haverhill. Massachusetts Department of Transportation Project Manager Eamon Kernan said public feedback gathered during previous meetings this year provided the design criteria.

“The new bridge should avoid being a modern copy of what exists today, but maintain an arch appearance even as arches become lower and shallower with fewer spans; connect the modern look of downtown Haverhill and the more traditional appearance of Bradford; offer opportunities for distinctive lighting; provide vertical elements above the deck to add character; provide places to rest and enjoy the view,” he explained.

The chosen bridge won over less expensive, but relatively plain post-tensioned steel deck arch and arched steel girder designs. The design will be further enhanced and be ready for public comment next spring and ready to be turned over next September to a design-build contractor, yet to be named, to complete.

The new bridge will be built in halves, allowing two lanes of traffic at all times during construction, managers said. As for the actual timeline, Kernan said, there are variables.

“We have four to five years. We don’t truly know that, exactly how long it is going to take. It’s going to be awhile. This is going to be a tough bridge to build because we’re not a clean slate. We can’t close the bridge down, completely remove it and then go put in a brand new bridge which would obviously be pretty quick,” he explained.

Instead of lookout towers, as seen on the existing bridge, vertical blue light beacons are shown in the early design.

Rich Lenox, a vice president and senior project manager for the engineering firm WSP, pointed out the new bridge will be 10 feet wider than the current one with 12 feet of shared pedestrian and bicyclist space on both sides with a “crash-worthy” concrete rail separating cars from people.

The public will continue to have a role in helping to choose other elements such as decorative street lights and “artful seating.” Officials said now is the time to determine what, if any, waterway navigation should be included on the sides of the bridge. Bridge architect Etty Padmodipoetro called this phase the “fun part” or “the jam that you put on the bread.”

“When you look into a bridge, we want to have this bridge to be somewhat iconic—it is going to be iconic—and so it needs to tell the story. It’s the story of how it fits into the area,” she explained.

The overlook area over the Merrimack River could, optionally feature, interpretive signage with, as examples, Haverhill’s and Bradford’s separate histories or places for art.

Kernan told the public direct connections between the Rep. Brian S. Dempsey Boardwalk and Wall Street to the new bridge is outside of the scope of the project. However, he said, designers will ensure nothing about the bridge project will interfere with any future efforts to build to a structure to carry pedestrians up. On the other hand, connections to the Mayor James J. Fiorentini Bradford Rail will be made. Officials said, while it is impossible, to completely save a tower from the existing bridge, some elements may be preserved for use on the trail.

Massachusetts Department of Transportation Project Manager Eamon Kernan and Rich Lenox, a vice president and senior project manager for the engineering firm WSP, address the public Nov. 15, in downtown Haverhill. (WHAV News photograph.)

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