Life of a Bridge Project

MassDOT and DCR are continually working to inspect and rate the more than 4,500 bridges under their jurisdiction according to federal standards. These inspections take into consideration the condition of vital bridge elements such as the deck, superstructure, substructure, and the rate of deterioration. Under these measures there are currently over 500 structurally deficient bridges with many more bridges in danger of becoming structurally deficient without significant investment in maintenance in repairs. Unsafe bridges are closed and deteriorating bridges have restrictions placed on their use.

Addressing structurally deficient bridges and those in danger of becoming structurally deficient involves a determination of whether each bridge should be preserved, repaired or replaced. In addition to the evaluation of the structural health and condition of the bridge, throughout this process consideration is given to each bridge’s natural, historic and aesthetic environment, as well as right-of-way and budgetary concerns.

Bridge preservation work, which repairs bridges before they deteriorate into a more serious condition, is the least expensive, requires the least lead time to design, and offers the opportunity to bundle several bridges of similar need together in one contract offers the best means to expedite delivery of the ABP. Approximately 30% of ABP funding will be dedicated to preservation work.

On bridges that have deteriorated significantly, bridge rehabilitation or replacement is required. Bridge rehabilitation involves the replacement of major bridge elements such as the substructure. When bridges have reached a point where deterioration is so significant that service life cannot be extended, full bridge replacement is required. Bridge repair or replacement is dramatically more complex than preservation and includes a number of steps critical to ensuring sound design and safe construction. The design process includes a determination of project scope through site visits, followed by designs and design reviews. This process can take months or years depending on the complexity of the project and at each stage greater clarity is gained regarding the amount and type of work and the amount and type of materials needed. Each of these factors has a marked impact on the cost estimate. Good designs and estimates are critical to successful bridge projects.

As the design process progresses, environmental, cultural resources, geotechnical and hydraulic issues are identified and resolved. The types of permits required and the permitting authority depend on several factors including the source of funding (state or federal) and the proximity to the project of national heritage or cultural resources, endangered species of plants or animals, wetland, navigable waterways, scenic and wild rivers. Permit turnaround times can range from weeks to 18 months. Right-of-way issues may include protracted legal processes to take the property necessary to the project. Each of these factors can affect schedule, which in turn affects spending. Projects will be closely monitored throughout the ABP and permitting and right-of-way acquisitions will be planned to maximize achievement of the ABP goals. MassDOT and DCR have launched a major permit streamlining effort with state and federal agencies to ensure timely delivery of the ABP is not delayed and environmental standards are not compromised.

Bridge construction can range from several months to several years. Factors that influence a construction schedule include the extent and scope of the work; whether portions of the bridge will remain open to traffic during construction, the need to relocate utilities or have work performed by outside entities, environmental permit restrictions and the weather. Much of the DCR work under the program will be dedicated to the Charles River Basin. This requires tight scheduling and synchronization to coordinate reconstruction efforts with surrounding cities and towns as well as with other agencies. Construction on all projects will be monitored closely throughout the program to ensure program results are realized.

In the Spotlight

Active Project List [PDF - 231KB]

ABP Update
Through April 1, 2014 the MassDOT Accelerated Bridge Program has advertised 191 construction contracts with a combined construction budget valued at $2.26 Billion.
Of these 191 advertised construction contracts:
  • 152 have already, or will, repair/replace over 270 bridges throughout the Commonwealth.
  • 39 are maintenance/preservation projects which perform work to improve the safety of many additional bridges throughout the Commonwealth.
  • 187 have been awarded to a contractor.
  • 155 have been declared complete by MassDOT (or DCR) with two additional contracts terminated and the remaining scope transferred to other contracts.
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