The PFC Ralph T. Basiliere Bridge crosses the Merrimack River in the center of Haverhill. It carries Route 125, locally known as Main Street. The bridge rests on five concrete arches and has two lanes crossing the river and four lanes at the nearest intersections in Bradford and Haverhill. Each side of the bridge also supports a sidewalk. The bridge is a vital connector for the City of Haverhill. 25,000+ vehicles per day cross the bridge. This figure includes heavy vehicles such as trucks, school buses, and Merrimack Valley Transit Authority (MEVA) buses.
The bridge remains safe but requires replacement largely because of the poor condition of its foundations. This poor condition is in part due to the scour. The scour results from the current of the Merrimack River colliding with the bridge’s piers. As a result, the riverbed around the piers is eroding. This leaves the pier foundations unable to resist potential future scour events. The limits of work for the overall Basiliere Bridge Replacement Project includes the bridge itself up to the two nearest intersections. These are Main/Water/Merrimack Street and South Main/Middlesex Street.
As of the fall of 2023, MassDOT is actively designing a replacement Basiliere Bridge with the goal of reaching the 25% design level in the first quarter of 2024. The concept now being advanced into design will improve safety for all users. It can also be built in two phases to maintain transport over the river during construction – a key concern of Haverhill residents. The structure meets MassDOT’s goals in terms of:
- Serving today's and future traffic needs
- Improving cycling and walking conditions
- Improving the Merrimack River's water quality
- Allowing continued boating on the Merrimack
- Minimizing impacts to nearby properties
- Supporting utilities while the new bridge is being built
- Providing opportunities for accelerated construction methods to reduce construction impacts
A Local Landmark
The Basiliere Bridge is a symbol of Haverhill. Some version of its picture is on the City's own website and the local Fire Department's uniforms. The Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce and Latino Coalition also use a picture of the bridge in their logos. A goal shared between MassDOT and Haverhill is that the replacement bridge should reflect its host community and be a source of pride for it as today's bridge is.
To support this goal, in March 2023, MassDOT kicked off the concept phase for the new bridge. The purpose of this effort was to work closely with residents, members of the business community, and other key stakeholders in Haverhill to determine the new bridge’s overall appearance, lane configuration, and accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians before beginning the more technical work of structural design.
MassDOT anticipates constructing the new bridge using design/build methods. In design/build construction, one team develops a base concept for the new bridge. A contractor then teams with an engineering firm to finish the design and build the new structure. This method allows MassDOT to take advantage of innovative designs and construction approaches. It also tends to deliver the final product faster. MassDOT currently anticipates that construction will begin in late 2025 and last approximately four to five years.
A Robust Public Process
Following briefings to local officials in December of 2022, MassDOT kicked off the initial public process for the bridge replacement in March 2023. Since then, the agency has held three public information meetings and three targeted briefings for stakeholder groups: the Greater Haverhill Chamber of Commerce, the Haverhill Latino Coalition, and the Crescent Yacht Club which docks its boats immediately downstream of the bridge in Bradford.
The community process has been marked by a cooperative spirit and key elements of the replacement structure now in design can be attributed in part to input from participants in this effort including:
- An overall arched appearance reflective of today's bridge.
- A four-lane cross-section with two, formalized lanes in the north and southbound directions.
- Shared use paths on either side of the bridge, separated from motorized vehicles by a physical barrier.
- Overlooks to stop, rest, and enjoy views of the Merrimack River.
- Vertical elements above the deck to give the bridge visual interest.
The Haverhill community continues to be our partner in this effort. With the public information meeting held on November 15, 2023, the project kicked off its design phase. MassDOT anticipates the next major project milestone will be a 25% design public hearing in the late winter or early spring of 2024. We invite all interested parties to get involved.
MassDOT wants to hear from you about what sort of benches, railings, and lighting you would like to see on the new bridge. What vertical elements are most interesting to you? How could we commemorate the existing bridge? For some ideas, please see our November 15, 2023 public meeting presentation – provide link.