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For Immediate Release: 02/21/2012
CONTACT: Contact: 617-973-8472

MassDOT Announces Critical Electrical Upgrades to New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge

Around-the-clock work will prevent vehicles from crossing the bridge for a projected three weeks beginning 6:00AM March 4

BOSTON—The antiquated electrical system that allows both cars and vessels to pass the New Bedford-Fairhaven Bridge requires urgent transformer and motor upgrades that could take three weeks, MassDOT announced today. The work, if left undone, could cripple the span for an unknown period of time.

The threat posed to the bridge by inadequate transformer capacity was brought home last February when a problem caused a closure. The incident initiated MassDOT’s current effort to provide a permanent remedy through the installation of new transformers and motors.

“A March start offers us an appropriate time for addressing this job. The procurement has been completed, the contractor has agreed to a 24/7 mobilization, and NStar is on board,” said MassDOT Highway Administrator Frank DePaola. “While we understand the bridge closure is an inconvenience to area drivers, the March timeframe also allows us to avoid impacting the busy tourist season.”

New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said, “MassDOT is taking a proactive approach to the problem.  It’s critical to fix the bridge’s electrical system before another breakdown triggers an extended closure.  I appreciate MassDOT accommodating the City’s request that contractor adopt the extraordinary measure of deploying work crews around the clock until the job is complete.”

Mitchell added, “We need the work to finish as quickly as possible to minimize the impact on drivers and businesses. Vehicles will be unable to cross the bridge so I urge residents to use the detours to patronize businesses located on Pope’s Island, Fish Island, and in Downtown New Bedford.”

During the electrical upgrade, the bridge will be set in the open position to allow marine vessels to transit the area in accordance with Federal Law and the US Coast Guard. Specific detour routes will be posted on MassDOT’s website shortly. 

The work includes changing out the existing 575-volt transformer (a model no longer available or serviced by NStar) with a 480-volt transformer and the replacement of the bridge’s 14 motors. The goal is that the upgrade will minimize impact to marine and vehicular traffic when future maintenance and repair work becomes necessary. 

The aggressive work schedule is dependent on weather conditions. MassDOT will provide progress updates throughout the project.