I-91 bridge work to begin in Northampton

  • A construction worker sets up scaffolding for repairs on the 91 overpass bridge on Route 5 in Northampton in July 2019. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/23/2021 4:38:24 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A four-year project to replace Interstate 91 northbound and southbound bridges over Route 5/ Mount Tom Road at Exit 23, and Hockanum Road a short distance to the north, is getting underway this summer.

As the state’s Department of Transportation moves forward with the $56 million project to rebuild the four bridges, occasional traffic delays on the highway are anticipated and the work will bring necessary lane closures. The bridges date to the highway’s construction in 1965. 

DOT spokeswoman Kristen Pennucci said that before the demolition and reconstruction of the aging bridges take place, new temporary travel lanes and a temporary bridge will be built in the highway median to ensure that traffic will flow normally during the construction period.  

“The ongoing work in the median is for the construction of the temporary median roadway and bridges so that one direction of I-91, at a time, can be relocated for replacements of the bridges without requiring long term reduction of available lanes,” Pennucci said.

Gomes Construction Co. of Ludlow has staged equipment and other material in the median and has needed to block off a lane of traffic periodically, leading to traffic slowdowns.

The project is being funded through the Transportation Improvement Program for the Pioneer Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The overpasses of Route 5 and the railroad tracks at Exit 23 have seen some structural steel repairs in recent years, but even though the piers have significant rust and worn-away concrete, an inspection provided to the state indicates that there are no safety concerns. 

In 2014, however, a bridge inspection revealed deterioration in a steel beam that needed an emergency fix, and the state was able to keep two lanes of the highway open by shifting the weight of vehicles passing over the northbound bridge, and closing the northbound on-ramp from Route 5.

As part of the bridge work, the state will also be doing some reconstruction of Route 5 to enhance safety for bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles, Pennucci said.

For bicyclists, new bicycle lanes will be added in both directions, and for pedestrians, the project will be adding curbs and a 5-foot sidewalk on the west side from the Connecticut River levee south to the bus stop south of Atwood Drive.

Vehicles should see improved shoulder and lane widths southbound for the approaches to both the northbound and southbound Interstate 91 ramps.

Hockanum Road also will get upgrades in the area of the two highway bridges that pass over it.

The state has replaced other bridges on the I-91 corridor in both Hampshire and Franklin counties in recent years.

In Easthampton, beginning in 2007, the I-91 northbound and southbound overpasses at East Street were rebuilt. Six years later, in Deerfield, the northbound and southbound highway bridges over the Deerfield River, Stillwater Road and Lower Road were replaced.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.
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