Belle Isle Bridge slated for much-needed repairs

September 30, 2010
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Fourteen years ago when Jim Costin bought Belle Isle Seafood on the East Boston side of the Belle Isle/Winthrop Bridge he was nervous.

“There were rumblings and talk about re-doing the bridge back then but nothing ever happened,” said Costin.

Now, the project to make much-needed improvements to sure up the structural integrity of the bridge is closer than ever and has Costin paying close attention.

“They assure me it won’t have a major impact but I don’t know,” said Costin. “They plan to shut down two lanes at a time which will inevitably kill my parking.”

For years the bridge has been an unofficial four lane span but the one lane on each side has traditionally been used for parking for fisherman and patrons of Belle Isle Seafood.

The closure of one lane on each side during construction has Costin nervous again.

“Our whole business is takeout so our customers have always pulled over and ran in to get their orders,” said Costin. “Now I don’t know were they will be able to park … especially if there are traffic cops that are going to be strict about pulling over during construction.”

Costin said he might have to tweak the way Belle Isle has traditionally done business while construction is ongoing like adding deliveries or encouraging patrons to call ahead.

“We are not doing anything right now but we’ll see how it goes,” said Costin.

The $4.9 million project to replace the bridge is set to begin this winter or, at the latest, Spring 2011. The Belle Isle/Winthrop Bridge is one of only two access roadways to the Town of Winthrop. The bridge is Winthrop’s only link to the City of Boston and carries the majority of commuter traffic. The bridge is a crucial link for emergency response vehicles. Although bridge inspections in 2002 and 2004 determined the bridge to be in fair condition, there are concerns that the condition of the bridge deck, slab, abutments, piles and bracing are approaching structural deficiency.

The project to replace these deficiencies was recently green-lighted as funding  through the 2010 Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) for the Boston Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) became available.

TIP is an inter-model program of transportation improvements produced annually by the MPO.

The TIP serves as the implementation arm of the MPO´s long-range transportation plan by incrementally programming funding for improvements over a four-year period. It programs federal-aid funds for transit projects, and state and federal-aid funds for roadway projects like the Belle Isle/Winthrop Bridge project.

However, Costin hopes that there are more meetings to give consideration to the small businesses that line the bridge like Belle Isle Seafood, Dunkin Donuts, the Mobile Gas Station, Simione Oil and Woodside Ace Hardware.

“Maybe we can get them to consider night work because there are really no neighboring residential properties near the bridge that would be impacted by the noise,” said Costin. “I think they have been able to do a good job over at the Chelsea Street bridge avoiding negative impacts because they opted for night work and weekend closures of the bridge there. Maybe that can be attempted over at this project.”

Costin, like many who live and commute in the area, know what it’s like to get out of Winthrop during the morning rush and back in during the afternoon rush.

“I can only imagine what it’s going to look like with all the businesses open, two lanes shut down and traffic cops trying to wave people through in the morning,” he said.

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