The Pawtucket Street bridge between UCrossing and South Campus was closed to traffic on Monday, Feb. 10, after a sizable structural component fell from the bridge. According to a press release from the Mass. Department of Transportation (MassDOT) on Feb. 13, the bridge will remain close to all vehicular traffic following an inspection that found significant deterioration to the bridge deck.
“MassDOT Bridge Inspection teams inspected the structure and reviewed historical design
information and based on the present conditions recommended the bridge remain closed to
vehicular traffic,” MassDOT said.
The bridge over the Pawtucket Canal was first closed to all traffic Monday morning after an 80-foot strip of concrete, a longitudinal section of the existing bridge deck, had become dislodged and fell from the bridge. The release from the Lowell City Manager’s office said no one was injured in the incident, and MassDOT was brought in to assess the condition of the bridge.
“On Tuesday [Feb. 11], MassDOT inspectors concluded that the steel members of the bridge superstructure are sound,” said Phil Geoffroy, the executive assistant of communications at Lowell City Manager’s office. He said deciding to close the bridge came down to determining if the bridge decking was sound enough to support vehicular loads.
A report from MassDOT says pedestrians and bicyclists can still safely use the bridge. MassDOT said commuters who travel from one campus to another or who typically use Pawtucket Street should expect delays, reduce speed and use the detours provided by the city.
Roadblocks start after Pawtucket Street meets with Wannalancit Street, where the road is closed to all through traffic. The other side of the bridge has roadblocks just before Walker Street meets with Pawtucket, closing the road to all traffic.
The detours recommend that drivers heading westbound towards South Campus should turn left onto School Street and then turn right on to Broadway Street before rejoining Pawtucket Street using Walker Street. Drivers heading eastbound, away from South Campus, should do the opposite.
While none of the university shuttle routes used the bridge due to weight restrictions, Nicholas Piscitello, UMass Lowell’s director of administrative services in transportation services, said they are monitoring the situation to see how it will impact university shuttles while the bridge is being repaired and replaced.
“With any major shift in traffic patterns, we expect some delays during the rush hour times, at least during the beginning, as folks who typically use the bridge need to get used to a new way through the city,” said Piscitello.
The Pawtucket Street bridge has been closed to eastbound traffic, traffic moving away from South Campus, since May 2019. It is one of six canal bridges being replaced in Lowell, including the bridge over the Northern Canal next to East Campus.
“The construction of the first half of the new bridge is well underway and the installation of the new bridge beams is scheduled to occur next. Once the first half of the new bridge is fully completed, vehicles will again be able to use the bridge while the remainder of the existing bridge is demolished and reconstructed,” MassDOT said in its release.