Those of us who are creatures of habit, especially driving habits, will just have to get used to approaching the Chapel Street Bridge, reading the unambiguous signs, saying, “oops” yet again, and taking the detours into or out of Downtown and Wooster Square.
That’s because the series of closures of the 25-year-old swing bridge for preventive maintenance and repainting, which began in June, will continue for four more weeks while the redecking with new concrete proceeds.
Then the bridge will reopen, but then close again but for only about a week for a polymer overlay to be applied that’s intended to help deter wear.
Then, however, creatures of habit, brace yourselves!
For this fall or early spring (depends on the weather among other factors) comes the Biggy of Closures — about eight weeks for a paint job that will give the middle-aged span another 20 years of bearing us in and out of Wooster Square and Downtown.
That’s the latest bridge-repair forecast from City Engineer Giovanni Zinn, who is presiding over the $5 million project, paid for primarily by the state but with some city participation.
“The current work involves the hydro-demolition [high-pressure water jets] of the existing deck fill material, then replacing it with concrete,” Zinn reported in an email.
Other preventive maintenance procedures, like the mechanical and electrical repairs, are also ongoing and they can be accomplished while the bridge is operational.
Yet the ultimate aim of the project is to give the bridge a superb paint job, for when the paint and other coatings fail, that’s when serious corrosion begins to set in on the steel of the span.
As anybody who has ever painted a chair or door jamb knows, the new paint lasts a lot longer if you take off the old stuff down to the wood.
In the case of the Chapel Street Bridge, that means blast-cleaning it — after the new deck concrete and the overlay have dried — before applying new paint.
“The painting in particular is key to preventative maintenance on the bridge, and will protect the steel in the corrosive marine environment,” Zinn added.
Zinn estimated the maintenance will give the bridge at least another 20 years of useful life. “It is much cheaper to fix up and paint the bridge now than wait ten years and have to replace much more steel,” he reported.
The eight-week closure later this year is required because the bridge has to be cleaned and painted in the open position.