The John Greenleaf Whittier Bridge was built in 1951 connecting Newburyport and Amesbury over the Merrimack River. It was named for the poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. The bridge is a critical regional transportation link for people and commerce. It replaced the Route 1 drawbridge to relieve traffic congestion.
MassDOT's Whittier Bridge/I-95 Improvement Project will bring the Whittier Bridge up to current safety standards. On February 27, 2013, MassDOT's Board of Directors awarded a design/build (D/B) contract to the joint venture of Walsh-McCourt JV1. The bridge is a signature project of the Accelerated Bridge Program. Construction began in summer 2013.
Under the direction of MassDOT, the Design/Build (D/B) team is replacing the existing through truss bridge with a network tied arch structure. The new bridge cross section will include four travel lanes, a high speed shoulder, and a breakdown lane in each direction. Four adjacent bridges are being replaced or reconstructed along a 3.5 mile segment to accommodate a widened I-95 from Exit 57 in Newburyport to Exit 59 in Salisbury. This widened section will increase capacity to meet projected 20-year traffic volumes. For more information, view the project corridor map and read about the design and construction.
In addition to the bridge and highway improvements, a shared-use path will facilitate area connections to regional trail systems. This will be the first shared-use path along a Massachusetts interstate with pedestrian overlooks across the Merrimack River. Read more about the shared-use path. Stormwater collection from the bridge and roadway, and pretreatment systems will protect water quality in the river and community water supplies.
The existing Whittier Bridge carries I-95 over the Merrimack River. (Image credit: HNTB)
Rendering of the new Whittier Bridge over the Merrimack River, which will carry four lanes of traffic, a high speed shoulder, and a breakdown lane in each direction. (Image credit: HNTB)
Environmental and Historical Impacts
Measures are in place to protect the Merrimack River and other natural resources, including adjacent open space/parkland, public water supplies, and threatened and endangered species, throughout construction. Stormwater is being collected from the bridge and highway, and pretreated prior to discharge to protect water quality in the river and community water supplies.
MassDOT has highly qualified environmental and cultural resource professionals on staff who are working closely with the D/B team to identify impacts and develop plans to avoid, minimize, or mitigate them. The project team continues to coordinate with the Massachusetts Historical Commission and local historical commissions to identify cultural and historical resources in the project area as part of the review process for Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act.
MassDOT regularly works with the U.S. Coast Guard on issues related to navigation channels in the Merrimack River during and post-construction. The D/B team coordinates with the state Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program and local conservation commissions. Any impacts to threatened or endangered species or their habitat will be mitigated by restricting construction in the Merrimack River during certain times of year or avoiding land-based habitat. Wetlands will be avoided where possible, but if impacts are unavoidable they will be minimized and the resource replicated elsewhere.