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Efforts to repair bridge progressing ... slowly

The Morgan-Sullivan Bridge, which links Agawam and West Springfield, has become too small to accommodate increasing traffic flow and has succumbed to structural deterioration since its construction in 1946. Reminder Publications file photo
By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

Last month, city officials in Agawam and West Springfield announced that their efforts to lobby MassHighway and state officials to repair the "structurally deficient" Morgan-Sullivan Bridge are progressing . slowly.

"It's not an easy process but both communities realize that something needs to be done," West Springfield Mayor Edward Gibson said.

The two communities took a proactive stance to the July 18, 2007 MassHighway inspection which deemed the bridge "structurally deficient" by hiring Purcell Associates, an engineering firm from Glastonbury, Conn., to conduct a Justification Report examining the current structural conditions and traffic patterns as well as to make recommendations for necessary improvements.

At a public meeting at the Agawam Public Library on Aug. 13 at 7 p.m., the results of the report will be presented by Stephen Ulman, senior traffic engineer at Purcell Associates. He will also be present to entertain questions and comments from citizens of both communities.

The Justification Report suggests that $11.4 million worth of upgrades to the structural integrity of the bridge as well as upgrades to traffic patterns are needed.

"MassHighway has evaluated the bridge and certainly has made note that it should be a priority over the state's long-term plans for infrastructure improvements," Agawam Mayor Susan Dawson, said.

The MassHighway inspection in 2007 labeled the deck, sidewalks and lighting in "poor condition," the superstructure, substructure, steel stringers, diaphragms and pile support abutments in "fair" condition and the three concrete piers in "good" condition. Information released by Agawam's Planning and Community Development Office noted that "recent conversations with MHD [Massachusetts Highway Department] indicate that this could drop to 'poor' in [the] near future," however.

The intersection analysis the Morgan-Sullivan Bridge links Agawam and West Springfield at the intersection of Routes 75, 159 and 147 (Suffield, Springfield and Main streets) completed by MassHighway labeled evening peak traffic patterns as E or F Level of Service. According to the 2000 Highway Capacity Manual, an A designates the best and F designates a failing traffic pattern or flow. The only exception during this time was traffic flow between Memorial Avenue and River Street, which received a designation of A during morning peak and a B during evening traffic peak times.

The necessary improvements would cost approximately $1.2 million for roadway work, $2.8 million for bridge widening and $7.4 million for bridge rehabilitation, according to Purcell Associates.

The firm has suggested a laundry list of 13 items in order to reinforce the bridge's structural integrity as well as deck, sidewalk and lighting replacement.

Intersection improvements at Springfield and Walnut streets, suggested by Purcell Associates, include "widen eastbound approach of Springfield Street to add an additional 200 feet thru lane; lengthen left turn lane to 250 feet for the Walnut Street (southbound) approach; replace traffic signal equipment."

Improvements to the Springfield, Walnut and Suffield Street section include "widen Springfield Street to provide an additional fifth travel lane; adjust the horizontal alignment of Springfield Street."

Purcell Associates has also suggested improvements to the Springfield, Main and Suffield Street section, which include "provide two left turn lanes with 200 feet storage and a shared thru/right turn lane for eastbound Springfield Street approach; provide a 150-foot exclusive left turn lane/thru lane and an exclusive right turn lane for the southbound Memorial Avenue approach; lengthen the right turn storage lane to 450 feet for the westbound Main Street approach; provide a 75-foot exclusive left turn lane for the northbound approach; replace traffic signal equipment."

Gibson said the suggested repairs and upgrades would help to increase daily traffic flow between the two communities, especially during special events such as the 17 days of The Big E Fair.

After next week's public meeting in Agawam, the project will then be reviewed by the Project Review Committee of the MHD on Oct. 23 before being placed on the 2009 Transportation Improvement Plan.