Commuters of the Commonwealth be warned: The Tobin Bridge is about to undergo its first large-scale repair project since the 1970s.
The MassDOT announced the start of a rehabilitation project of the surface of the Tobin Bridge which will require northbound lane closures starting on April Fool’s Day. They predict significant traffic impacts on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1, and warn of nightmarish travel times for drivers and MBTA bus customers.
MassDOT’s traffic modeling predicts that Route 1 northbound on the lower level will have significant delays, and that afternoon peak travel times will extend as a result. Traffic backups are expected to extend onto the I-93 ramps, along the Leverett Connector, and towards Rutherford Avenue.
Two out of the three northbound lanes on the 79-year-old cantilever truss bridge will remain open during the day, and only one will remain open overnight. The same lane closures will go into effect for southbound lanes starting May 1 in the Chelsea Curves area. The same clustered frustration can be expected the for morning peak travel hours on the upper level southbound lanes, with backups expected to extend to the Route 60 Rotary in Salem and could potentially extend beyond Salem Street during rush hour.
“MassDOT is carrying out simultaneous work on this infrastructure which was constructed in the middle of the 20th century and hasn’t been rehabilitated since the 1970s in order to ensure its continued use and reliability and minimize the overall impact on commuters and the local community,” Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver said in a statement posted on MassDOT’s website.
The Department estimates that fixing both of the 36-foot wide lanes lanes on New England’s largest bridge simultaneously will wrap up in 2021.
The T will increase the number of Blue Line trains to help stem the stymied tides of travelers, and will offer free fares for inbound direction on the SL3 bus line offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square, Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops throughout construction.
“During construction, free fares are being offered for Silver Line 3 (SL3) inbound customers at certain station stops and additional Blue Line train capacity is being added. T riders will be able to use their CharlieCards to travel between North Station and Chelsea on the Commuter Rail,” MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak said in a statement.
MassDOT is also recommending commuters take the Haverhill or Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail lines, noting the high parking capacity at Haverhill and Bradford stations, as well as at that the Newburyport/Rockport Line historically has high parking capacity at Newburyport, Salem and Lynn station.