In Statewide Assay, 2 Franklin Bridges Deemed Deficient


Above, Google image of I-495 southbound crossing Summer Street, one of two bridges in town deemed deficient by officials.

In the wake of the ship-bridge collision in Baltimore, Gov. Maura Healey hastily called a meeting Tuesday afternoon with various state agencies, the U.S. Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Maritime Academy to talk about bridge and port safety.

After praising the Coast Guard and Maritime Academy and largely offering assurances that port operations are safe,  Healey switched to infrastructure and noted that the Tobin Bridge, the largest bridge in New England that soars over the Mystic River carrying Route 1 between Boston and Chelsea, was inspected "as recently as a couple of months ago." 

"It's a regularly-occurring thing that our bridges are inspected. As I said, the Tobin was inspected a couple of months ago. If, on inspection, we identify any issues, we would work hard to take care of that and we'll continue to do that," Healey said. She added, "Certainly, we want to make sure that we have the very best protocols in place. Our inspections are up to date and, as I say, if we identify any issues we're going to address them."

Later in the day,  Transportation Secretary Monica Tibbits-Nutt and Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver held a press conference to share information on the state's bridges, ports and infrastructure.

Gulliver said Massachusetts has two bridges similar to the Francis Scott Key Bridge in that they are truss bridges over a maritime navigation channel: the Tobin and the Braga Bridge in Fall River.

"With the Braga and with the Tobin Bridge, there are precautions that are taken. There are certain guidelines and certain requirements that are imposed upon us as we build those projects, as we maintain and replace those bridges to ensure that they meet modern standards and that they remain safe, and safe for use by marine traffic as well," Gulliver said. "So I can tell you that from a standpoint of, 'Is there a lot of similarity between Massachusetts and Baltimore?' There is not. We are not the same size port as they have in Baltimore, we don't have the same size navigable waterways, nor the same size bridges."

Looking Around the State

Gulliver said MassDOT is responsible for about 5,000 bridges in Massachusetts with roughly 12 percent of them listed as structurally deficient. He said MassDOT does bridge inspections every day and that each bridge is inspected at least every two years.

The report listed two of Franklin 33 bridges (not counting small culverts) as deficient. One, is the steel beam I-495 southbound span over Summer Street, which a Google Maps images shows to be significantly rusted.

The other, a prestressed concrete slab bridge, also carries I-495, in this case of the CSX/MBTA tracks leading to Forge Park Station.

A state of deficiency doesn't necessarily imply unsafe but failure to make repairs to perform needed maintenance could make such structures unsafe, according to the state report.

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