BRIDGE IMPROVEMENTS: MassDOT summarizes success of Braga Bridge improvements project

Feb. 14, 2017

State transportation officials attribute success on the long-term I-195 renovations to cooperation with the city of Fall River

Along with beating its project goals by more than six months, Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) officials tout their partnership with Fall River for completing the Route 79/Braga Bridge improvements project with a broader achievement.

Some of the project highlights included overall improvement of the roadway system connecting to I-195 in both directions across the Braga Bridge, Route 79/138, to the city's downtown and waterfront district; up-to-date enhanced access for bicyclists and pedestrians with new paths and improved safety; and preserving and improving access to cultural landmarks such as Battleship Cove, Heritage State Park, the Gates of the City and the Narrows Center for the Arts.

The Route 79/I-195 interchange was completely reconstructed with mostly at-grade roadways, new connector roads and replacement of local bridges, MassDOT wrote. Noted were five new signalized intersections to improve traffic flow and upgrades to the Braga Bridge. The bridgework included cleaning and repainting, concrete pier repairs, replacing deck joints, restoring concrete, structural and steel repairs.

MassDOT said their studies since 1999 showed "about 94 percent of the structural steel superstructure was rated as structurally deficient." When built, officials said, "Route 79/138 consisted of an elevated two-level viaduct including 111 spans stretching 8,700 ft."

The Charles M. Braga Jr. Memorial Bridge, named for Fall River's first serviceman reported killed at Pearl Harbor, is 5,780 ft long over the Taunton River connecting Fall River and Somerset. Its 26 spans required deferred steel and concrete repairs — including deterioration uncovered when work began.

Original project cost of $197.35 million rose from the contract award in June 2013 to $227,728,310, reported in November with budgeted contingencies/incentives. It was one of five ongoing Massachusetts mega-projects under the $3 billion Accelerated Bridge Program.

Among the outcomes, the contractors and subcontractors removed nine deteriorating, confusing, unsightly "spaghetti ramps" connecting Route 79/138 and I-195 and two new roadways were built to link the waterfront — the Water Street Connector and Milliken (Boulevard) Connector.

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