TEMPORARY FIX. A Moynihan Lumber truck approaches one of two steel plates on Chestnut Street heading toward Park Street. After this photo was taken on May 25, the DPW installed larger steel plates to better reinforce the travel lanes above the compromised twin barrel culverts through which the Ipswich River flows. Asphalt has also been added to secure the plates to the roadway. (Maureen Doherty Photo)
The following is the response by Director of Public Works Joseph Parisi Jr. and Town Administrator Michael P. Gilleberto to Carrie Lavallee, P.E., Chief Engineer of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) Highway Division concerning the need to close the portion of Chestnut Street, between Park Street and Haverhill Street, to through-traffic due to the failure of twin culverts underneath the roadway through which the Ipswich River flows.
At the June 12 Annual Town Meeting, a warrant article has been included on the FY24 budget to fund the final design of a bridge to replace these culverts. Originally, the town planned to seek full funding for the bridge replacement in FY25. The more recent deterioration of the roadway, including the development of sinkholes, may alter that timeline.
Dear Ms. Lavallee:
We are writing in response to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation – Highway Division’s letter dated May 15, 2023 concerning the Chestnut Street bridge at the Ipswich River.
The Department’s letter included a recommendation to close the Chestnut Street bridge to vehicular traffic and a request to respond no later than May 26, 2023.
As you know, this letter was preceded by a meeting among the Town, its consulting engineers at TEC, Inc., and MassDoT on May 11, 2023. At that meeting, the Town inquired about the possibility of temporary repairs to keep the bridge open, potentially with a weight limitation. MassDoT responded that to do so, a rating would need to be conducted and was highly likely to require closure of the bridge.
The Town has since consulted with TEC and understands that the amount of time required for design and permitting for temporary repairs such as lining or otherwise reinforcing the existing corrugated metal pipe make it more efficient for the Town to prioritize design and construction of a permanent replacement.
The Town has been planning the bridge replacement project since last year. A request for funding for final design and permitting of the proposed bridge replacement structure was generated late last year and is pending before our Spring Annual Town Meeting (June 12, 2023). Our consultant, TEC, Inc., has already initiated the preliminary design to identify potential structure types.
North Reading is served by two east/west roadways: Park Street (Route 62) and North Street. Closing Chestnut Street at the Ipswich River is highly likely to disrupt east/west traffic flow, most notably by causing an increase in traffic at an already busy and challenging intersection at Park and Central Streets.
After reviewing the status of the culvert internally and with the North Reading Select Board, the Town asked TEC to review the existing rating report and compare to existing conditions to independently determine if a re-rating would permit a weight restriction or temporary repairs as opposed to a closure; however, TEC’s review of the available information and existing conditions determined that a re-rating would likely result in a requirement to close the bridge.
Since May 11, (the) Town’s Department of Public Works’ Administration, Engineering and Highway Divisions, as well as its Police and Fire Departments, have been meeting and reviewing available information, reports, and options. Actions associated with this effort are as follows:
- Through active collaboration with TEC, our Police, Fire, and DPW, our team has collectively concluded that traffic is highly likely to use Central Street as an alternate route. The Town’s draft signage plan is attached for reference. Please note that the intersection at Central Street I Park Street has documented operational deficiencies that require the installation of a temporary traffic signal to responsibly accommodate the additional traffic flows.
- The Town retained TEC, Inc. to review alternative routes and develop a draft temporary traffic control plan (TTCP) for the bridge closure; this enabled the Town to check our current stock sign inventory and/or begin to fabricate or procure the remaining temporary signage.
- Performed supplemental traffic counts to analyze and determine that a signal is indeed warranted at the intersection of Central and Park Streets (diverted peak hour bi-directional traffic ranges from 400 to 900 vehicles per hour).
- Initiated conversations to gain right of entry on two privately owned parcels at the intersection of Park Street (Route 62) I Central Street for the planned installation of the temporary signal strain poles and other supports.
- Retained TEC, Inc. to assist us in the preparation of bid documents (see attached draft temporary signal plan) to procure the services of a signal contractor to install temporary signals at the intersection of Park Street (Route 62) and Central Street.
- Our current procurement schedule is: o Central Register Ad 5/24/2023 o Bid Document availability 5/25/2023 o Bid opening 6/8/2023 o Temporary signal (assuming portable trailer-mounted units) installed by 6/30/2023 o Longer-term temporary signal poles installed by 7/31/2023
- Installed road plates over the repaired sinkhole areas to help distribute vehicular load in the interim period until the temporary signalized intersection is operational allowing the bridge to be closed to through traffic. We are also looking at our options to borrow, rent, or purchase additional road plates to provide full roadway width coverage to span the center area between the two-barrel culverts.
- We plan to provide supplemental weekly bridge inspections with both DPW workforce and consultant services to monitor any potential changes to the culvert condition during the interim time needed to bid, procure, and install the temporary signals for the detour route. The planned closure date is on or about June 30, 2023, provided the portable trailer-mounted units have been installed and are operational at the Park Street/Central Street Intersection by this date so that detoured traffic through this intersection can do so safely.
- We anticipate having funding available for the construction and installation of this work as early as June 12, 2023 following the conclusion of our Spring Annual Town Meeting.
- We look forward to working cooperatively with the Department and request your review of our proposed action plan to confirm the reasonableness of our planned efforts to mitigate this infrastructure challenge.