Alford Street Bridge Has Many Problems to Fix One Year after Opening

It appears $57 million and three years of inconvenience weren’t enough to have a shipshape Alford Street Bridge that works seamlessly – as it was announced this month that there are numerous problems with the bridge more than a year after it opened.

The Boston Herald first reported the story.

“Following the completion of the bridge and the process to subsequently turn it over to the City [of Boston], certain issues were identified that require corrective action,” said Michael Verseckes of the state Department of Transportation (DOT). “Some of those issues include glitches and malfunctions with certain electrical and mechanical components of the bridge that operate the bascule leaves; other issues that have been identified include connections to utilities, wiring that powers street lighting, as well as elements of the bridge deck grating that are exhibiting signs of premature wear and tear.”

Said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh’s office, “We are committed to resolving these matters correctly and safely, while balancing any inconvenience to the public at large. The issue resolution process involves the Public Works Department and MassDOT, plus the general contractor, their sub-contractors and the designer of record. The City has a strong relationship with MassDOT and has an open line of communication to discuss concerns with the bridge, with public safety being the top priority, and continues to work with MassDOT and their contractor to resolve these issues with an eye towards the efficient use of each other’s resources. MassDOT is responsible for paying for the resolution of outstanding issues related to the bridge.”

The Alford Street Bridge – a drawbridge on the Mystic River – was repaired at great cost and closed partially for three years while construction proceeded. It came in over budget and much longer than anticipated – opening in the fall of 2014.

The Bridge is co-owned by the City of Boston and the state DOT.

Walsh’s Office also added that moveable bridges are complex and involve electrical, mechanical and structural systems to function. They indicated it is not unusual to have issues with these systems in the initial months after being open to traffic.

Verseckes added that a good deal of the mechanical problems and electrical problems – including streetlights that don’t work – are under warranty.

“Under the contract, much of the electrical and mechanical equipment that operates the bridge is covered under warranty,” he said. “For the remaining issues, MassDOT is working collaboratively with the city of Boston, and the project contractor to determine the full extent of any and all other deficiencies, and will work to resolve these issues and ensure the bridge continues to safely carry traffic and that it fully lives up to its expected useful life.”

He could not say if the Bridge will have to close fully or partially once again for the new repairs.

According to the Boston Mayor’s Office, some of these issues have included:

  • Spot failures on the bridge deck, which are currently plated over. City investigators have noticed that some of the pieces on the metal grid system have come loose.
  • Wiring issues with street light system, as some of the lights are not working and it is believed to be electrical.
  • Issues with limit switches impacting operations. Limit switches assist the bridge to open in a programmed way. When the switches fail, one cannot open or lower the bridge as designed. There have been three issues with the limit switch failing – once reportedly with the bridge slamming down.
  • A Fender system that needs to be adjusted.
  • Covers to critical mechanical parts to limit future maintenance challenges. The City has noticed that critical moving parts under the bridge are not covered, and so are susceptible to accumulating road dirt. All parties are working together to solve this issue.

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