MEDFORD (CBS) - Drivers are being told to avoid Interstate 93 in Medford if possible as repairs continued Tuesday on an extensively damaged bridge. The state's Highway Administrator said traffic delays and lane closures could last 6-to-8 months until permanent repairs are finished.
A truck carrying a large metal structure hit an overpass on 93 South around 3:20 p.m. Monday, damaging the bridge at Roosevelt Circle and causing a traffic mess for the afternoon rush hour. It happened near Exit 24 where Route 28 crosses over the highway.
The driver of the truck has been fined $210 for two civil offenses: being over height and violating the permit issued by the Department of Transportation.
State Police said the height of the truck with its load, a water clarifying tank, measured 14'9" but the truck was only permitted for a maximum height of 14'.
The driver was also fined for not having flag cars and for being on I-93, which was not on the permitted route.
Crews worked through the night on repairs, but only two lanes of traffic were getting by on that side of the highway Tuesday. Drivers are also restricted from going over the eastbound bridge.
MassDOT said there will be lane closures while a damaged beam and a section of the bridge deck are demolished. The large tank hit two structural beams. The first beam was split in two and the second was bowed from the impact.
"The goal is to get it open for tomorrow morning, but I have to tell you it is a complicated bridge right now. It is looking more and more like tomorrow morning's commute is also going to get impacted. Once that is done, once we have it stabilized, we will open traffic up underneath the southbound barrel so people can travel underneath the bridge again safely," State Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver told reporters Tuesday afternoon.
MassDOT expects that all travel lanes on I-93 southbound will be fully reopened at some point on Wednesday.
"The Roosevelt Circle on top of the bridge is going to have a lane restriction in place for some period of time. We are going to be removing somewhere between three and five feet of concrete. There's going to be lane restrictions in place, that's likely going to be months before we get a design done where we can go in and do a full repair and open Roosevelt Circle back up to it's full capacity."
When asked for specifics on how long the repairs and delays might last, Gulliver told reporters, "It's very hard to say right now, but speaking from experience I would say between 6 and 8 months would not be unusual in this case."
MassDOT said drivers should expect delays on Route 1 south, Route 16, Route 28 and through Roosevelt Circle until permanent repairs can be made.
The agency has put up message boards on I-93 as far away as the New Hampshire border to alert drivers about the work zone.
Those who do take 93 south through Medford should expect delays, go slow and use caution.
One alternate route is to get off 93 entirely since the lane closures are at exit 24 in Medford.
If drivers see traffic getting heavy, they could get off at exit 25 in Stoneham and get back on at Medford Square, skipping exit 24.
Gulliver said they're working as quickly as possible to stabilize the bridge. He said the primary goal is to remove all of the damaged concrete and steel, so it won't fall on the highway, then come up with a long term repair plan.
"I can tell you that it had to pass under a number of other bridges that were of the same height so we're not sure if that load loosened up at some point," he told WBZ.
Massachusetts State Police said the truck was a 2013 Peterbilt 367 owned by Dove Transportation of Lincoln, Alabama.
The driver, a 57-year-old man from Alabama, was not hurt. His passenger, a 54-year-old woman from Alabama, was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with "possible minor injuries," police said.
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