August 5, 2023
Rourke Bridge – Planned Bridge Improvements/New Bridge Update
One of the first actions I took upon being sworn in as the State Representative for the 16thMiddlesex District was to send a letter Secretary Fiandaca of John Moran of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) regarding the surface conditions of the Rourke Bridge. Like many of you, I cross the bridge daily and experience the deteriorating condition and loose surface panels and slick steel plates.
Over the course of the last several months, I have regularly contacted MA DOT for an update. On May 26, 2023, MassDOT responded to the letter signed by the Lowell Legislative Delegation:
“MassDOT completed an initial scope of repairs to the structural bracing for the bridge towers last fall. The remaining elements of the plan include replacing identified lateral supports on the underside of the bridge and replacing or refurbishing the bridge deck panels and the wearing surface that is attached to them. MassDOT procured a large quantity of new deck panels and lateral supports last year.”
In July, I again followed up with MassDOT- District 4 to determine when the project would commence. The following response to my inquiry was received on August 2, 2023:
“Mass DOT is currently soliciting pricing proposals from contractors to perform the work. MassDOT procured a large quantity of new deck panels last year while the form design progressed. To minimize traffic impacts, the work is expected to be completed at night. The plan will include provisions to maintain access across the bridge for emergency vehicles at night, while the work occurs. The work is to commence sometime in the fall.”
I will continue to work with MassDOT to monitor progress of these critical safety improvements until they are complete.
In the meantime, progress continues on the new Rourke Bridge design (25% complete), permitting has begun, and Right-of-Way (ROW) acquisition has started. MassDOT expects to have a 25% design public hearing in the fall of 2023. Once permitting is finished, and ROW acquisition is complete, the design-build process will commence, and advertising is expected to begin in the summer/fall of 2024.
Please feel free to contact my office or email me at: Rodney.Elliott@MAHOUSE.GOV for additional information.
Additional Correspondence from MassDOT below
The following is an update on the waterline replacement project on VFW highway from Mammoth Rd to Stockbridge St.
Today, I was again in touch with MA DOT officials as well as the consulting engineer on this project. According to the Project Managers, the trenchless culvert design is currently under review in the geotechnical unit at MA DOT. Final review of the permit is under way and will be issued soon.
MOST IMPORTANTLY, I have been told the culvert project will NOT hold up the repaving of the VFW highway. Both the City and State roadway sections will be paved simultaneously. The Engineering firm is in the process of scheduling the paving work with the contractor. I have impressed upon all parties the importance of this work and the inconvenience it is causing for residents.
I would like to extend a personal thank you to Steve Deschene of the Lowell Water Department and Centralville District 2 Councilor Corey Robinson who filed a motion for an update on this project. Councilor Robinson and I have been working collaboratively to obtain an update and as his tagline reads "#TogetherWeMakeADifference".
I will remain on top of this important project and supply updates as they become available.
Is the bridge finally being replaced? YES! The project has been funded and approved. Mass DOT is well into the design phase. The skepticism is understandable and justified. The temporary bridge is now 40 years old and has reached the end of its useful life. We've been waiting a very long time and it felt like it might never happen.
When will Construction Start?
Late 2024 - Early 2025
When will it be completed?
How many Lanes?
2 Lanes each way 4 in TOTAL
There will be Pedestrian and bike lanes on both sides, scenic overlooks, and color change lighting for celebrations
Option 3 was chosen from design possibilities
The bridge will align with Old Ferry Road in Pawtucketville and cross the Merrimack diagonally and meet the current intersection at Wood & Middlesex Street on the Highlands side
The current bridge will remain open during the entire construction timeline except for a brief period for the final tie in to the Highlands side (estimated from a few hours to a day)
How much will it cost?
Estimated to cost $170 million
No local tax dollars will be used
Who is funding the project?
The State of Massachusetts
THE CURRENT BRIDGE
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Meetings are held online, via Zoom
Next Meeting is set to be held in July 2023
Project inquiries, written statements, and other exhibits regarding the proposed undertaking may be submitted to the project team on line at this link:
LINKS FROM PRIOR MEETINGS
Recording of February 7th meeting
SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE PHOTOS AND INFORMATION
ON THE CURRENT BRIDGE
The Rourke Bridge is a critical transportation link over the Merrimack River in Lowell. The bridge carries about 27,000 vehicles per day. The existing bridge was built in 1983 as a temporary bridge.
The bridge’s vehicle capacity is deficient and its bicycle and pedestrian features do not meet current multi-modal and ADA standards. It is nearing the end of its useful service life and its supporting substructure is showing signs of deterioration.
A Corridor Study and Feasibility Analysis of the Rourke Bridge and surrounding streets took place in 2013. The study looked at replacing the Rourke Bridge with a permanent structure, and if the existing location is the most suitable. It developed a series of recommendations to improve mobility for residents, businesses and visitors.
Based on the Feasibility Study, MassDOT is now moving forward with the replacement of the Rourke Bridge. The process will include preliminary design, environmental permitting, and construction.
The State delegation sent a letter to Mass DOT regarding the deteriorating conditions on the current bridge. Mass DOT is going out to bid this spring/summer to repair the travel lane conditions. Remediation is scheduled to start this summer or early fall.
The current temporary bridge is reaching the end of it's useful life. It will not remain operational after the new bridge is complete. Not only is it reaching the end of it's life, the current approach/exit on the Highlands side will be used by the new bridge and the intersection on the Pawtucketville side will shift from in front of the bowling alley to Old Ferry Road changing the traffic pattern entirely.