Contractors to Drill Test Borings at Basiliere Bridge Over Next Six Weeks; Part of New Design Work

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, 2023 in downtown Haverhill. (WHAV News photograph.)

Today and for about the next six weeks, contractors will be drilling test borings below the Pfc. Ralph T. Basiliere Bridge over the Merrimack River as part of completing designs to replace the nearly 100-year-old structure.

A subcontractor to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation will be investigating underground conditions. Officials said determining subsurface conditions around the bridge is “critical to designing the foundations of the proposed replacement structure.”

An early draft design of, what is called, an open spandrel bridge was unveiled during a public meeting last November in downtown Haverhill. A spandrel bridge is one with space between the deck surface and the arch features vertical supports, but is not completely closed. Project Manager Eamon Kernan said at the time, the construction schedule isn’t yet clear.

“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.

State officials emphasized the existing Basiliere Bridge remains safe for all users and traffic will continue to flow during the subsurface investigation. Traffic management devices and police details will be present to help motorists and other users to keep moving. They said, “Impacts will be kept to a minimum, but all users should anticipate some delays and exercise caution while traversing the work zone.”

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