Status Report on the North Washington Street Bridge

Written by: Thomas J. Nally, Senior Advisor


The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) has held a series of public meetings to provide a status report on the North Washington Street Bridge Replacement Project, which has been paused since September 2021 when cracks were observed in several welds. Work is currently underway implementing a Corrective Action Plan to fix the defects, and the remainder of the work is expected to begin shortly. Upcoming milestones currently schedule moving traffic to the new bridge structure in December 2023 followed by removal of the temporary bridge, substantial completion with all traffic, bus lanes and two pedestrian walks open in December 2024, and final completion by March 2025. The contractor, JF White, and MassDOT will evaluate possible methods to accelerate the completion of the work, which is running approximately two years behind the original schedule.

The work completed so far includes the completion of placing piers in the water and installation of 60% of the steel structure. Installation of steel was halted when fifty-two welds were found to have cracks in the top girders. The welds were tested, and calculations verified the safety of the steel, but responsibility for the root cause of the defects has not yet been determined. The parties agreed to work together and to proceed with developing a Corrective Action Plan in 2022. Repairs need to be undertaken now because the welds are currently accessible and would be less accessible when the next stages of construction are done, which would cover the location of the welds. One hundred ninety-two locations need to be rewelded to correct the defects.

Meanwhile, as traffic continues to use the temporary bridge, traffic changes have been implemented in Keaney Square in response to pedestrian concerns, including adjustment in signal timing, lane striping, and signage. Changes have also been made to support the operations of recently added bus lanes on North Washington Street. Similar adjustments have been made in City Square including closing a slip lane to enhance pedestrian safety.

Discussion at MassDOT’s October 18th meeting underscored the need to address safety issues, questions about reducing the remaining completion schedule, and concern for vibrations on the temporary bridge, which have been determined to not cause any safety problems. One commenter suggested that the bridge should be renamed in honor of the late Celtics center Bill Russell. Three hundred twenty-two attendees participated in the October 18th meeting.

Learn more about the project here.

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