Additional deterioration found on bridge over Route 5

Last modified: Friday, October 10, 2014
NORTHAMPTON — Due to additional deterioration found on the bridge over Route 5 it could be another six to eight weeks before motorists on Mount Tom Road can once again use the northbound on-ramp to Interstate 91.

An emergency bridge repair on I-91 north forced the state Department of Transportation to close the passing lane as well as the on-ramp on May 22. The project was initially estimated to take around a month to complete, but after the design took longer than expected, it was delayed until after the July 4 weekend.

But after the original repairs were completed, another inspection found additional deterioration on the portion of the bridge over the railroad that runs parallel to Route 5, again delaying the re-opening of the on-ramp DOT spokesman Michael Verseckes said in an email Wednesday .

“We fully realize this is an inconvenience to folks, however, it is important that we address deficiencies found to ensure our roads and bridges are safe for travel,” he wrote.

He added that the repairs are now being designed, and new parts for the bridge are being built off-site.

“While it may not appear that there is work occurring physically on the bridge, the repairs are underway,” he said.

In order to get to I-91 north, motorists must travel through the busy intersection at the center of downtown and on King Street to the Exit 20 on-ramp.

On Wednesday, Simon Bousel, head cook at One Bar & Grill at the corner where Pearl Street meets Pleasant, not only sees the traffic crawl outside his business, but gets to experience it on the way to his second job doing park maintenance in Greenfield.

“It definitely adds 10 minutes to everyone’s day,” said Bousel, of Northampton, who has waited in traffic on Pleasant Street for as long as 15 minutes.

Steven Campbell, general manager at McLadden’s Irish Publick House, said that though he lives in Easthampton and is not regularly affected by the on-ramp’s closure, he has noticed the other roadwork in Northampton affects his employees coming from the north.

Still, he added, “It’s good the roads are getting fixed. You deal with what you have to deal with.”

Chris Tinson, assistant professor of African-American Studies at Hampshire College, said he has regularly commuted from his home in Holyoke this summer to work on writing projects in Northampton coffee shops. He said that though he usually just beats the morning and afternoon rushes, he has been caught in traffic on I-91 north a couple times when workers were on the bridge.

But as cars slowed to a stop outside the window at Northampton Coffee Wednesday evening, he said with a laugh that having grown up in Los Angeles, he is not easily fazed by heavy traffic.

“If it’s a good reason why they’re taking forever (to complete the repairs), then I’m OK with that,” he said.

Gena Mangiaratti can be reached at gmangiaratti@gazettenet.com.