MassDOT to expedite full replacement of General Pierce Bridge

  • The General Pierce Bridge, connecting Greenfield and Montague over the Connecticut River, remains under repair. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The General Pierce Bridge, connecting Greenfield and Montague over the Connecticut River, remains under repair. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The General Pierce Bridge, connecting Greenfield and Montague over the Connecticut River, remains under repair. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2022 6:42:56 PM
Modified: 6/14/2022 6:40:40 PM

MONTAGUE — The state Department of Transportation is “taking advantage of an opportunity to advance the full replacement” of the General Pierce Bridge, according to an email Highway Administrator Jonathan L. Gulliver sent to state Sen. Jo Comerford and state Rep. Natalie Blais on Friday.

The Selectboard received word of MassDOT’s intent on Monday and shared the email during its evening meeting. The determination, Gulliver wrote, came in response to advocacy “regarding the renewed support for additional work to remediate and to paint the upper trusses on the General Pierce Bridge” that had previously gone unanswered.

Gulliver explained that additional analysis of the bridge, which closed for a multi-year construction project on April 26, 2021, determined that it would not be feasible to add work to the current rehabilitation project due to its aged state. Instead, MassDOT will begin the public process for a full bridge replacement project in the coming months.

While assessing the feasibility of remediating the bridge’s upper trusses, MassDOT “considered the total benefit to the bridge, risk assessment, impacts to the traveling public and an analytic engineering evaluation of the life expectancy,” as described in Gulliver’s email.

“Our analysis determined that, due to the age and condition of the bridge, the scope of work would need to expand considerably beyond painting and would additionally require extensive repair work to remove rusted structural elements that, although stable, are not suitable for painting,” Gulliver wrote. “The additional work and painting is estimated to add an additional two or more years to the current project schedule and would not appreciably extend the lifespan of the bridge commensurate with the level of investment.”

Full replacement, Gulliver expressed, would be the option most beneficial to a community that desires both a structurally sound and aesthetically pleasing bridge.

“We considered several alternatives and determined that the approach that is the most resilient and least impactful to the community is to advance the full replacement of the bridge,” Gulliver wrote.

Full replacement of the bridge was estimated to cost at least $60 million when it was considered BEFORE the beginning of the current repair project. The current rehabilitation efforts on the bridge are part of a $13.7 million project being carried out by Northern Construction Service. The project, set to wrap up next May, is mainly focused on both rebuilding the deck and replacing some of the steel support structure below. The repairs would have ensured 25 years of stabilization.

MassDOT is now in the process of selecting a designer and establishing a scope and schedule for a full replacement, according to Gulliver. While no timeline has been set, Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz said he anticipates work could commence only after completion of the $56 million three-bridge replacement project along the canal that was announced at last week’s Selectboard meeting. Replacing Turners Falls Road’s “White Bridge,” the cross-canal “Green Bridge” and Sixth Street’s Bailey Bridge is expected to begin in four to five years.

“One could only logically think that this might happen after the Canal District project,” Kuklewicz said. “Perhaps very soon thereafter.”

He then added that he is unsure how long replacement will take, but that Montague will “find out soon.”

Despite the possibility of long-term route closures looming as a result, Selectboard Clerk Matt Lord looked positively upon bridge replacement developments that have emerged in Montague in the past couple weeks.

“Multiple rounds of unexpected good infrastructure news,” Lord said with a smile. “I like it.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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