Burns Bridge on schedule with minimal impact so far to businesses
By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Shrewsbury – As the new year approaches, the Lakeway Business District Association (LBDA) is looking forward to 2013 with an optimistic but cautious eye. That is because, on top of normal economic concerns, there is also one large project in their midst – replacing the bridge that connects Shrewsbury to Worcester via Route 9.
Taking down the existing Kenneth F. Burns Bridge and replacing it with a new one is a massive and expensive undertaking. But it must be done, as the current bridge, which spans Lake Quinsigamond, is nearly 100 years old. Although the public is not in any danger now, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) stresses, the bridge is not structurally sound enough to meet the demands of future generations. A proposal for a replacement was approved in 2008 as part of the Patrick-Murray administration’s Accelerated Bridge Program.
In a presentation at the LBDA’s annual meeting Dec. 5, Rob Pine and Evan McCormick, executives with the Middlesex Corporation, the company contracted by MassDOT to oversee the project, assured the association members that their concerns regarding the project’s impact on local businesses were taken seriously.
“We want to be totally transparent,” McCormick said. “We are making sure we are staying in touch with everyone.”
A website, http://www.massdotprojectkenburnsbridge.info/Index.html, has been set up and email blasts are sent out on a regular basis, he said. Also on the site is a link that shows daily bird’s-eye views of the project (http://www.massdotprojectkenburnsbridge.info/camera.html).
In addition, MassDOT has an office just over the bridge on Route 9 in Worcester.
And although there is a lot of heavy-duty equipment already at the bridge site, McCormick noted that the project team is committed to “maintaining the traffic flow on Route 9, both eastbound and westbound.”
“People ask ‘when is the bridge going to be shut down?’” he said. “That is not going to happen. We will maintain two lanes of traffic in both directions throughout the project.”
The new structure will actually be two bridges, Pine said, separated by a small gap. The construction of the eastbound portion will begin in the spring of 2013 and continue through the summer. In the fall of 2013, all traffic will be diverted to the newly built bridge and the old bridge will then be demolished in the winter. Construction will begin on the westbound portion in the spring of 2014. The entire project is expected to be finished in the summer of 2015.
There will be occasional nighttime delays, Pine noted, but even those would be minimal as most work is being done from the water.
The LBDA was formed in February 2010 as part of the town’s master plan as a way to help foster economic prosperity along Route 9. Since that time, the group has helped pay for things such as landscaping in the area to make it more inviting.
The group currently has 30 members including a number of small businesses, single proprietors, banks, and realtors.
Board member Mary Frances Rozak said that all of the nearly 150 businesses along the Route 9 strip from Oak Street to the bridge itself should consider joining the association.
“A basic membership is only $75 per year,” she said. “We could do so much if we all worked together. It helps to have numbers when we are advocating for the area with the town and the state. That benefits all of us.”
Continuing the landscaping efforts and ultimately creating a pedestrian-friendly area are initiatives for 2013, board members said.
For more information, go to http://thelakeway.org/index.html.
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