The Whittier Bridge and I-95 Improvement Project involves the widening of a 6.8km portion of the I-95 corridor from 113 Interchange to I-495 entrance ramp in Newburyport, Salisbury and Amesbury Massachusets, US, by adding two additional lanes to the six-lane I-95.

The project will replace the John Greenleaf Whittier Memorial Bridge located over the Merrimack River with a new bridge to meet current safety standards. It also includes the replacement or reconstruction of seven adjacent bridges in Amesbury and Newburyport to accommodate the widened portions of the I-95.

The project is being implemented by the Highway Division of Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT). It forms part of Massachusetts’ Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP) that aims to improve 250 old bridges.

The project received the Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) approvals in 2012. Construction was formally started in August 2013 and is expected to be completed by October 2016. It is expected to create approximately 400 direct construction jobs and 1,000 indirect jobs.

Financing the Whittier Bridge project

The $292.15m project is being funded by the $3bn Patrick-Murray Administration’s MassHighway Accelerated Bridge Program (ABP). Federal Highway Administration will provide for 80% of the financing, while the remaining 20% will be financed from the Commonwealth funds.

“Federal Highway Administration will provide for 80% of the financing”

The MassDOT’s Highway Division awarded a $292.15m design-build contract to a joint venture of Walsh-McCourt in February 2013. Walsh Construction is handling the bridge construction, while McCourt Construction is handling the roadway and other construction works.

Details of the existing bridge

John Greenleaf Whittier Memorial Bridge was constructed in 1951. It is a 1,346ft long double-barrelled, three-span continuous riveted steel through truss bridge connecting Newburyport and Amesbury via Interstate 95 (I-95) roadway, featuring a walkway on the east side of the bridge.

The bridge is witnessing excessive deterioration and is nearing its economic life. It currently handles about 73,000 vehicles per day, which is expected to increase to 84,800 by 2035.

Engineering the Whittier Bridge

Besides widening the 6.5km portion of the I-95, the project also involves the construction of Massachusetts’ first shared-use path running parallel to the I-95, which will incorporate the new north bound Whittier Bridge, and provide pedestrian overlooks across the river.

“The new bridge will feature four north-bound and four southbound traffic lanes.”

The construction work initially involves test borings, clearing of trees, surveying, soil testing, cofferdam construction, micro-pile installation, and utility works. The northbound structure will be constructed first, including approach spans for arch erection, followed by the construction of the arch deck and ribs.

The north and southbound traffic of the existing bridge will be shifted to the new structure and the existing bridge will be demolished. The southbound bridge span will then be reconstructed. The new bridge will feature four north-bound and four southbound traffic lanes, a break-down lane, and a high speed shoulder in each direction. The span of the new bridge will be shorter than that of the existing bridge.

Stormwater collection facilities and water pre-treatment systems will be also constructed as part of the project to protect the river water’s quality.

Working on the bridge

The final design and engineering for the civil, geotechnical, environmental, electrical and lighting systems, as well as bridge architecture and construction support services are being provided by HNTB. Parsons Brinckerhoff and TetraTech Rizzo are the prime consultants for the project.

William Warner Architects and Planners, C&C Engineering, Welch Associates Land Surveyors, Applied Coastal Resource Engineers, Normandeau Associates, Green International Affiliates, Public Archeology Laboratory, Regina Villa Associates, Shadley Associates, Genesis Structures and CME Associates are appointed as specialty subconsultants.

Structal-Bridges, a unit of Canam Group, is providing fabrication services for approximately 10,160t of steel structures being used for constructing the bridge.