Hall-Whitaker Bridge to permanently close Friday; replacement bridge could take over 2 years | News

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BEVERLY — The Hall-Whitaker Bridge, a key link between downtown Beverly and the Ryal Side neighborhood, will close permanently on Friday due to structural problems and will have to be replaced, officials announced on Wednesday.

Mayor Mike Cahill said it will take longer than two years before a new bridge is built.

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which owns the bridge, said a recent inspection revealed that the bridge must be closed to all vehicle traffic “due to significant deterioration in the primary structural elements.”

The sidewalks on both sides of the bridge can remain open to pedestrians and bicycles, the state said. The bridge will also continue to swing open for boat traffic, although maybe on a reduced schedule.

The Hall-Whitaker Bridge is located on Bridge Street and goes over the Bass River. Ward 1 City Councilor Todd Rotondo, who represents Ryal Side, said the closing will be a “colossal nightmare.”

The shutdown will coincide with a major reconstruction of Bridge Street that is set to begin in the fall. Rotondo said Bridge Street carries 7,000 to 8,000 cars per day.

“My fear right now is that traffic is going to go into the neighborhoods,” he said.

Cahill said Hall-Whitaker was one of many bridges scheduled to be replaced with money from the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that was passed last year, and that a new bridge is currently under design. He said he’s hoping the sudden closure will speed up the state’s plan to build a new one.

“There are a lot of bridges that need replacement but this is the one they’re closing,” Cahill said.

Cahill said MassDOT met with city officials last Friday to inform them the bridge might need to be closed. Further evaluation over the weekend and early this week led to the state’s decision to permanently close it, he said.

A neighborhood meeting will be scheduled “as soon as possible” to answer residents’ questions, he said.

Cahill said officials have known for years that the Hall-Whitaker Bridge would have to be replaced. The bridge, which was built in 1909 and is hand-cranked open for boats, has been temporarily closed for repairs at different times over the years.

“Everybody understands how disruptive this is going to be,” Cahill said. “I don’t believe the state is closing any others. To me that should mean we go to the top of the list. This is a major way to get into and out of our downtown and around the community.”

MassDOT said regional traffic will be detoured as follows:

Westbound traffic will be directed to follow McPherson Drive northbound and turn left onto Route 62 (Elliott Street) westbound, where drivers can continue to destinations to the west.

Eastbound traffic will be directed to continuing traveling on Route 62 eastbound to access points within downtown Beverly, or turn right onto McPherson Drive southbound to rejoin Bridge Street on the east side of the bridge.

Local traffic will be detoured as follows:

Bridge Street westbound traffic will be directed to follow McPherson Drive northbound and turn left onto Route 62 (Elliott Street) westbound, and turn left onto County Way, connecting to Bridge Street on the west side of the bridge.

Bridge Street eastbound traffic will be directed to turn left onto County Way; right onto Route 62 eastbound (Elliott Street); and right onto McPherson Drive, connecting to Bridge Street on the east side of the bridge.

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