The Whittier Bridge is a historical and important span connecting Newburyport to Salisbury and Amesbury via Interstate 95. The bridge was originally constructed in 1951 and is named after the abolitionist and poet John Greenleaf Whittier.
Construction of the bridge began in the summer of 2013 with the goals of improving the bridge’s safety standards, redesigning the geometry of I-95 safety ramps as well as increasing the bridge’s capacity and traffic flow. The new proposed bridge would be a significant upgrade to the existing six-lane structure. The new design would call for an expansion to eight total transit lanes with additional width being required for the incorporation of Massachusetts’ first shared-use pedestrian path attached to an interstate roadway. The primary bridge replacement project had an estimated cost of $328 million and would have several additional bridge and roadway improvement projects. Funding for this project was obtained through the MassHighway Accelerated Bridge Program with 80 percent of these funds being federally sponsored while the remaining 20 percent was financed by Massachusetts.
Besides the scale of the project, engineers faced several key challenges during its construction, most prominent of all being the need to maintain traffic flow throughout construction. During the 5-year project, contractors maintained three lanes of traffic through a variety of diversions between the existing bridge and its new counterpart. The bridge brings a wide range of benefits not only to commuters but to local communities in the surrounding area. Widening of the bridge and inclusion of additional lanes has allowed traffic flow to remain steady even during peak hours and holiday periods. The inclusion of a shared-use bicycle-pedestrian pathway not only demonstrates the administration’s commitment to multimodal transit. The bridge’s nuanced design and expedient delivery have produced an asset that creates equity for the Commonwealth’s road users.