Mass. Construction News

Reprinted from Boston Herald

After a harrowing close call in Somerville last week, the Construction Industries of Massachusetts is calling on lawmakers to shore up funds for the state’s failing infrastructure.

“It’s really kind of emblematic of the deferred maintenance that our bridges have undergone since day one,” said John Pourbaix, the Executive Director of CIM.

“It’s almost like Whack a Mole,” he added. “You fix one bridge and while you’re fixing that, another bridge will fall into disrepair, so you should be constantly addressing that need.”

Gov. Charlie Baker headed to Lowell Thursday to announce the state has received over $9.5 billion from the federal bipartisan infrastructure law over five years, including $5.4 billion for roads and bridges, $2.2 billion for the MBTA, and $591 million in Regional Transit Authority formula funds, as well as $1.4 billion for environmental initiatives.

Combined with state funds and other sources, MassDOT will invest over $3 billion into at least 146 bridge projects, including replacing the Rourke Bridge in Lowell, along with other bridge projects in Haverhill, New Bedford, Boston and Worcester, to name a few.

Still, Pourbaix argues that isn’t enough.

“(It’s) a good first start today and good news, and now the real work that will begin is executing that program,” Pourbaix said.

He said the problem is urgent enough that his letter pushing the Legislature to invest more state and federal funds into bridge repair is still relevant.

“It’s essential that the Legislature consider appropriating additional monies to sustain this program,” he said, especially pointing to the American Rescue Plan funds. “I know like the first tranche of money they kind of put towards public health and some of the social programs, but we have a chance of a lifetime operation to address some long-standing issues.”

Pourbaix pointed out that the state’s bridges are 25 years older than the national average. The average bridge should have “major rehabilitation” every 25 years, and be reconstructed every 50 years.

He calculated that the state should be rehabilitating or reconstructing about 200 bridges every year. “We’re not doing that,” he said. “The state just hasn’t had the resources to do anything near that amount.”

The state has over 5,000 bridges, of which 456 are rated as “structurally deficient,” and the state ranks fourth-worst in the nation on the percentage of bridge decks in poor condition. according to National Bridge Inventory data.

Recently released research from the American Road & Transportation Builders Association listed the highest-trafficked bridges considered “structurally deficient,” including the I-93 northbound/Route 1 southbound bridge over Route 24 northbound in Randolph, the Middlesex County area of I-95/128 that crosses over the train tracks in Woburn, and the Merrimack River bridge in Lawrence.