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Bridge work means detours must continue

City Engineer Mark Cressotti. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS FILE PHOTO)

WESTFIELD — Drivers heading south from downtown Westfield will continue to face detours for several months, City Engineer Mark Cressotti said this week.

Heavy trucks are barred from the Cowles Bridge as part of a long-term reconstruction project, and no traffic is allowed over culvert on City View Road after MassDOT ordered the crossing closed on Sept. 1.

Cressotti said the City View repair is a large enough job that it will have to go out to bid, which will “take some time.” The culvert spans over 12 feet in width, and replacing it requires a 12- to 15-foot span.

“There’s a lot involved, earth excavation, a gas main hanging off the culvert. We will work with the gas company, but it’s too large a job for the city crew,” Cressotti said. He added that the project is estimated to cost half a million to a million dollars. The city is planning to use American Rescue Plan Act funds to pay for it.

Cressotti said the design for the repair, which is completed, calls for box culverts to replace the rotting corrugated metal culvert. Box culverts are square, precast concrete boxes that will be put end to end under the bridge. He said while the design is done, the fabrication of the boxes requires lead time.

“We knew it needed to be replaced. We sought funding from the small bridge program, but did not get a favorable [decision],” he said.

Cressotti said they probably won’t see the new span installed until next spring, depending on the winter construction season. Meanwhile, the city will be looking for a temporary fix, a steel plate to put over the culvert bridge, requiring permission from MassDOT. Cressotti doesn’t know if they will get permission.

“MassDOT has closed bridges for us before, not as short a span as this culvert. Generally, when MassDOT closes bridges for us, you have to live with the detour,” he said.

The closure of City View Road also affects detours around the Cowles Bridge, a larger span carrying Routes 10 and 202 over the Little River, connecting South Maple Street and Southwick Road.

Though most traffic can continue to use the Cowles Bridge during its own reconstruction project, heavy trucks have to detour around it, following a route that until recently included City View Road. Detouring drivers must now travel farther along City View Boulevard, connecting to Southwick Road via Hillside Road in Westfield or Sunnyside Road in Southwick.

Cressotti said all traffic will have to detour during special nighttime closures at some point in the future. There is an 18-inch water main that runs across the bridge and down City View. At some point, workers will have to shut down the bridge overnight to move the water main from the old bridge to the new one.

“The detour when they have to shut the road down to do the water main, the detour would be City View,” said Cressotti. “If that’s still shut down, they would have to find another route.”

He said he hasn’t had a progress meeting on the Cowles Bridge for some time, so he’s hesitant to say when the overnight work might take place.

“It’s a state project. They know about City View. If City View is not an option, [traffic] will have to go up to Hillside,” he added.

Loomis St. reopens quickly

Another recent bridge closure by the state was the bridge on Loomis Street, which was closed due to high water and reopened within 48 hours. Cressotti said when the water gets to a certain level, MassDOT is concerned about the rushing water scouring and undermining the bridge. He said Loomis is a local bridge, but the state does inspections.

“Water levels were such that they came out to check. When they looked at that, they checked City View, and that’s when they closed it,” Cressotti said, adding that the Loomis bridge did not have any damage from the high water.

Elm St. bridge lifting

City crews have also been working on the Elm Street bridge, the last bridge to be completed in the central downtown section of the Columbia Greenway Rail Trail.

Cressotti said there has been a delay on the Elm Street bridge, probably until the spring.

“They have to jack it up. We need more height under it,” he said. State law demands 14 feet, 6 inches of clearance, and the bridge is only 14 feet, 3 inches above Elm Street, which requires replacing the bearings under the bridge. Normally, there are only four.

“We will need twice or more,” Cressotti said, explaining that with a bridge, a bearing expands with the temperature. On one side are the pin bearings, and on the other side are expansion bearings so the bridge can move.

Cressotti said the delay came in their approach to the jacking up the bridge.

“They were relying on certain parts of the bridge that weren’t suitable, and will have to shore it up with a temporary bracing,” he said, adding the construction contract ends in the spring.

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