A nearly 3-year long project to reconstruct and improve the Belmont Street Bridge — which connects drivers to Route 9, UMass Memorial Medical Center’s Memorial Campus and Interstate 290 west — will come to a close sometime in August, bringing more than 12 extra feet of roadway and less traffic congestion to the street.
MassDOT gave a tour of the work to Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and other officials under Thursday’s gray sky. The project is about 90 percent complete.
Walking on a path of new sidewalk, MassDOT officials told Polito about how the area used to be mill buildings. The project added a flashing sign to alert drivers to pedestrians crossing between UMass and Dunkin’ Donuts, as well as ADA compliant curb ramps.
The Belmont Street Bridge was built in 1930s. With the improvements added since officials broke ground on the construction in early 2015, the bridge now has a left-turn only lane to I-290 west, is wider to accomodate traffic flow, has more sidewalks for pedestrians and bicycle lanes.
The changes have significantly increased the vehicle capacity of the intersections on the bridge, MassDOT officials said. When the project is complete, traffic signals will respond to the amount of traffic on the road.
“The bridge is more than just a piece of infrastructure,” Secretary of Transportation Stephanie Pollack said. “It’s a part of the community, it’s a connection between people who live on that side of the bridge and people who want to use the wonderful UMass Medical facilities on this side of the bridge.”
The governor’s administration is repairing and replacing 80 bridges across the state, Polito said.
“So from large projects like removing the toll booths on Massachusetts Turnpike to repairing the pot hole in the local community, on that whole span of work, the state has a critical role,” she said.
This project in particular is “incredible” for the movement of people, according to the lieutenant governor.
“Whether they need to get to the hospital, whether they need to walk from that neighborhood across the street to get to a medical office, whether people need to get to the courthouse or the destinations on Main Street, to restaurants to schools, it’s very important that this bridge function,” Polito said.
Any major road closures due to the project are in the past, MassDOT said. As the project nears completion, there will be some night work and minor road closures.
“I use this exit and this ramp probably three times every day of my life, so I’m glad to see it’s finishing up,” said state Rep. John Mahoney of the 13th Worcester District, applauding MassDOT for its expected finish about 60 days ahead of schedule.
“The key theme is that we are connecting people,” said Acting Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver. “Thats a really important part of what we do.”
And for UMass, patients have already seen an improvement for ambulance traffic.
“What a difference that makes for their patients, even in an ambulance, to not have a bumpy ride, to have quick access, ” said Dana Swenson, the senior vice president at UMass Memorial Health Care. “Time makes a difference.”
This article originally appeared on MassLive on July 13, 2017