The Route 79 viaducts and ramps in Fall River were built in 1965 as part of the I-195 interchange with Route 79 near Battleship Cove. Time has taken a toll on the viaduct and ramps, which include 111 spans stretching 8,700 feet, and currently 11 bridges within the interchange are structurally deficient and need rehabilitation. The condition of the infrastructure, and the opportunity to improve multimodal access and enhance economic development, made the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project an excellent candidate for the state’s Accelerated Bridge Program.
In 2009, a MassDOT Value Engineering Study examined ways to improve the “value” of the project and suggested removing the Route 79 viaduct and replacing it with an “at-grade” roadway that would be combined with existing surface streets. In January 2010, MassDOT convened a task force of local and regional stakeholders to examine alternatives to address the interchange deficiencies, including removing the viaduct.
In January 2011, after a study of 12 concepts, MassDOT chose one alternative, “the at-grade alternative,” to best address the purpose and need for the project: Remove elevated Route 79 south of Cedar Street and replace it with a surface street that will combine Route 79 traffic with Route 138 and Davol Street traffic.
MassDOT spent the next two years refining the preferred alternative, studying the environmental impacts, and seeking input from the public and other stakeholders. The result is the current design, which is approaching 75% completion.
The new Route 79 will use parts of existing streets (Broadway, Davol/Viaduct Street and Davol Street). The at-grade roadway between Anawan/Pocasset Street and Central Street will be at the level of existing Davol/Viaduct Street and will continue to span over the railroad tracks and the Quequechan River. The roadway will have four through lanes (two northbound and two southbound) for most of its length in the project area. There are exceptions for turn lanes or auxiliary lanes.
The new Water Street Connector, near Gates of the City monument, will improve access and egress to the waterfront, including for trucks. The two-way street will supplement Central Street (one-way westbound) and Anawan Street (one-way eastbound). It also leads to the future site of the Fall River South Coast Rail station at the Gates of the City monument.
The new Milliken Connector, a two-way street to be created by reconstructing an existing ramp, will provide direct access from Milliken Boulevard to I-195 eastbound and westbound, and direct access from Route 79 to Milliken Boulevard. New and better designed ramps will maintain connections with I-195, Broadway and Central Street.
On the new Route 79/Broadway Extension, traffic signals at Central and Anawan Streets and at the new Water Street Connector will improve traffic flow and pedestrian and bicycle access. A shared-use path will be built connecting Milliken Boulevard to Route 79, while a sidewalk and dedicated bike lanes will run down Water Street Connector.
Construction of the Route 79/Braga Bridge Improvements Project will take place in five stages, concurrent with the Braga Bridge Phase II work.
Stages 1A through 1C will consist of demolition and reconstruction of Route 79/138. Stages 2A and 2B will consist of demolition and reconstruction of the I-195 ramps.
Below is a snapshot of the schedule in sequence:
Braga Bridge: Structural steel repairs, cleaning, painting, and replacement of the concrete deck are scheduled from fall 2013 through fall 2015, with remaining work to be completed by winter 2016.
Initial Upgrades: Preliminary road and utility work and construction of the Water Street Connector are scheduled from fall 2013 through winter 2013.
Stage 1A: Work on Route 138 south of Water Street Connector is scheduled from winter 2014 to winter 2015.
Stage 1B: Work on Anawan Street, Davol Street and Route 79 southbound is scheduled from spring 2014 to spring 2015.
Stage 1C: Work on Central Street, Ramp G and Route 79 northbound is scheduled from spring 2015 to winter 2015.
Stage 2A: Work on Ramps A, C, E, Y and Z and the Milliken Connector is scheduled from winter 2015 to summer 2016.
Stage 2B: Work on Ramps C, D, E, F, G and L will take place from summer 2016 to fall 2016.
Full Beneficial Use: Scheduled for fall 2016.
Accelerated Bridge Methods
MassDOT and the Design/Build Team will evaluate several accelerated bridge construction techniques and alternative technical concepts (ATCs) to complete the project as quickly and efficiently as possible. These include:
- Use of precast concrete elements on critical path bridges and structures
- Use of mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) walls instead of conventional cast-in-place (CIP) walls
- Use of shorter ramp spans, which require fewer and shallower substructure elements (and less excavation), eliminate some curved girders, allowing use of standard rolled shapes and providing overall life cycle cost improvements.