The Herald News, Friday, November 21, 2014 – Page A1

Fall River – The South Coast Rail project is pushing ahead with the reconstruction of four railroad freight bridges after last week’s $42 million contract award and Wednesday’s state transportation board authorization, officials announced.

Cardi Corp. of Warwick, Rhode Island – which was awarded the two-year contract – offered the lowest of six bids to remove and rebuild three Fall River bridges and the largest, the three-span Wamsutta, in New Bedford.

In Fall River, the bridges over President Avenue and Brownell Street are still being used for freight, while Golf Club Road off North Main Street is in the poorest condition and out of service.

Jean Fox, South Coast Rail project manager for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, said the project would begin in early spring, and continue through late 2016 or early 2017.

She listed the Cardi Corp. bid at $41.98 million.

While that is roughly $6 million more than state officials estimated in April, when the project reached 25 percent design status, Fox explained the increases from preliminary estimates.

She said that, during the summer, project risk assessment showed some costs had not been factored in, the price of materials has been “volatile” and that – factoring in after-design modifications – MassDOT expected the cost to be “closer to $40 million.”

Like other agency construction projects, the contract includes financial incentives and disincentives, Fox said.

The freight bridge replacement effort is the largest of the precursor projects related to the $2.3 billion rail endeavor. It follows an $18.4 million contract awarded last month to upgrade railroad crossings in Taunton, Freetown and New Bedford, and $10 million to $12 million for railroad tie and ballast work during the past year.

Fox said the early projects are needed and are part of MassDOT’s effort to improve infrastructure and increase freight rail speeds to the 25- to 35-mph range.

“We probably wouldn’t be advancing these projects as aggressively if we weren’t confident about moving South Coast Rail forward,” Fox said.

Gov. Deval Patrick is leaving office after advancing commuter rail service for this region. His support has gone further than any prior governor’s. Gov.-elect Charlie Baker has also committed his support to South Coast Rail.

“The South Coast Rail project is still several years ahead and $2 billion away from providing commuter service to the SouthCoast. If there are ways to achieve the objectives of South Coast Rail sooner and more efficiently, I will aggressively pursue them,” Baker said this year.

The MassDOT advisory board vote was unanimous in awarding the contract to Cardi. But one member, Dominic Blue, vice president of Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., questioned whether the award should wait until Baker takes office in January.

State officials noted the poor condition of the bridges and that they access ports in Fall River in New Bedford.

New Bedford’s Wamsutta Street bridge will account for about half of the project cost, with the President Avenue and Brownell Street bridges make up the bulk of the remainder. Golf Club Road is by far the least costly.

The work will include:

• President Avenue – increasing the vertical clearance over the road and its span, and eliminating visual obstruction beneath the bridge. It will require weekend closures.

• Brownell Street – located near Bicentennial Park, will increase vertical clearance. It will require a series of short-term closures to traffic under the bridge.

• Golf Club Road – restoring a safer, grade-separated crossing over the railroad. For about six months, the road will be a single-alternating road.

• Wamsutta – with inadequate clearance, resulting in dozens of truck crashes, the vertical clearance over Acushnet Avenue will be increased and the other roadways. Accelerated bridge pre-fabrication construction techniques will be used, and for about six months lane reductions on Route 18 will be in both directions, along with closures and detours of Acushnet Avenue and around Wamsutta Street.

By Michael Holtzman
Email: mholtzman@heraldnews.com