Work Continues on Essex River Bridge


Anyone looking to make the trek over the Essex River in downtown Essex should be taking a slightly different route to do so later this spring.

That’s when the temporary bypass bridge that’s currently under construction right next to the current Essex River Bridge should be finished and ready for two-way traffic. Once that step is complete, that will be the standard way to span that point of the river while travelling Route 133 for the next year or two.

“Right now, they are still working on the foundations of the bypass bridge, which is temporary,” explains Essex Town Administrator Brendhan Zubricki.

According to Zubricki’s recent Town Administrator’s report, the foundation of the bypass bridge will consist of “micro-piles,” which differ from traditional driven piles in that they are cored into the ground and screwed into the underlying bedrock. Those micro-piles are in now in place, with construction for the temporary bridge now on the next phase.

“The micro-piles that will support the abutments for the temporary bridge have been installed,” explains Kristen Pennucci, Communications Director for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, the state institution overseeing the project. “Construction on the abutments themselves will be taking place over the next few weeks. The temp bridge is scheduled to be installed in April of this year. The temp bridge is scheduled to be opened to traffic in early May after the temporary roadway is realigned to its new configuration.”

The project is overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, with Norfolk-based MAS Building and Bridge on board as the contractor. Work on the temporary bridge began at the start of the new year and is progressing as scheduled, with a budget of $5.63 million.

“We’re not expecting any delays,” says Zubricki. “There should be no weight restriction on it. Some of the larger semi-trucks will be ordered to go around because it will be a curved structure, not straight, and that will be posted by DOT. Otherwise, school buses, fire trucks and regular vehicles will be able to travel over it.”

The bypass bridge should also afford enough space for two-way traffic and pedestrian crossing.

“Two lanes of traffic will remain open – via the temporary bridge – during all phases of construction,” explains Pennucci. “However, commercial trucks will not be allowed over the temporary bridge and will be detoured via Route 22, to School Street, to Route 128.”

“The only thing the average person will notice is that they will be going around the usual bridge, and it will be that way for a while,” says Zubricki.

The bypass bridge may need to be closed for short periods of time during construction, with that work coordinated with the town and happening during the offseason at night.

“There will be times during major phases of construction when short term closures of the temporary bridge will be necessary,” says Pennucci. “The short-term closures will be coordinated with the Town of Essex and will only be allowed at night, and only at times of year when traffic volumes are expected to be low.”

Once the bypass bridge is completed and open to traffic, the existing bridge will be demolished and construction can begin in earnest. The new bridge is slated to open in fall of 2023, with final completion scheduled for spring of 2024.

“After the existing bridge superstructure is demolished, the contractor will commence with substructure repairs followed by the construction of the new superstructure,” explains Pennucci. “This will consist of the placement of the precast box beams, bridge deck construction, wingwalls, sidewalks, bridge rails, etc. This work will be followed by the realignment of the roadway into its prior configuration.”

Massachusetts DOT determined the current bridge to be structurally deficient, with the need for extensive repairs on a regular basis, necessitating complete replacement of the Essex River Bridge.

“This bridge is an essential link between Gloucester and I-95,” says Pennucci. “A new bridge needs to be constructed to allow both commerce, and emergency services to safely access this community.”

kristen pennucci, essex river bridge, asheldham brook, maldon district, essex bridge, essex town, massachusetts department of transportation, brendhan zubricki