Rain delays don’t stop sewer projects! Last time Bertoni, York and Foley Roads done, Rt. 128 was coming in. See the original plans ca.1950 #PublicWorks #GloucesterMA DPW

With thanks to Mike Hale, Dir. Public Works; Matt Coutu, Civil Engineer with New England Civil Engineering thru DPW; and Police Sergeant Conners.

At this time in July, Gloucester Public Works is generally midway into a construction season. Not this year. The rain has caused a “knotted web of deficiencies,” impacting routine work such as patching and pothole repair, outside painting, line & crosswalk painting, and summer paving which is “weeks and weeks behind”. Mowing wet grass or while it’s raining isn’t a good idea. And when the sun comes out the grass takes off. So that’s a visible delay. Still, DPW is plugging away at smaller projects around town, at the waste water plant, and pumping station projects. Most Utility work is on schedule.

Even before all this rain, the 2021 schedule demanded flexibility. DPW projects are unseen in the best of times, and can go unrecognized. Gloucester DPW worked through the pandemic. People forget that they were essential services. Prioritizing projects has been key (think critical events as in hazards or special events downtown). Also pacing and flexibility:

“The past 18 months have been taxing on these guys. Mistaken belief still out there that everyone had quarantine off. They need vacation this year. Didn’t get it last year. I’m mindful of burnout. So at times we’ll be short. Could be a specialty, supervisory, labor or machine operator job. They’re all important. The edges may be where you start assembling puzzle pieces, but you’re still going to need the outside and center pieces to be complete.”

Mike Hale, Dir. Public Works, July 2021 addressing holes if any in DPW operation

Essential workers, dangerous jobs – lest we forget | TRENCH BOXES — akin to mine shaft collapse prevention — for utilities and road work

Bertoni neighborhood water & sewer project 2021

Gas, sewer, and water lines have all been removed, redirected and replaced. Clay tile pipe (sewer) is notorious for ground water intrusion, and cast iron (water) for tuberculation*– New PVC will increase run time and water quality.

  • I had to ask. *TUBERCULATION: “Accumulation of minerals inside pipe decreases volume and impacts water quality.”

DPW is pumped about the new pump!

The former configuration ran beneath Rt. 128. Now that it’s been re-directed and running to a newer location off Poplar/DPW campus, there will be a significant savings both for the life of the pump and electricity.

“The Gloucester Ave. sewer pump station, during wet weather and high ground water, would run in excess of 12 hours per day, some days even longer. Running time for the newer one has been cut down to 6 hours a day.”

Mike Hale

Looking Back – February 1947

The Gloucester 2.5 mile highway construction was delayed “indefinitely”, because the bids for the approach (to a new bridge across Annisquam River) came in too high. The lowest bid was $1,285,776 and the cost was fixed at $300-$500,000.

August 1950

“…Much to the joy of thousands of beleaguered year-round and Summer residents, it was announced that the gap in the new high level bridge over Annisquam River was closed at 9a.m. by Bethlehem Steel Corporation.

The great significance was that it meant that it will not be too long before auto traffic will be flowing over this this improved entrance and exit to Gloucester, eliminating the two mile long traffic jams that have brought despair to motorists caught in the frequent openings of the low level Richard Blynman Bridge over the same river.

A sense of joy and relief was also experienced by the two Bethlehem officials in charge of the superstructure contract–Construction Engineers John P. McGonigle and Charles L. “Lonnie” Stroble. For as the 52-foot long, 44 ton piece of steel known as the central arch rib, south side, was lowered into place, their worry was whether or not it would fit. It did. 100 percent… The entire bridge is 860 feet long…

The superstructure contract, let by the State Department of Public Works to Bethlehem Steel is for $1,232,479.90.”

Boston Globe, Aug. 1950

1958 – RT. 128 Construction

Boston Globe focus on Rt. 128 by K. S. Bartlett features Gloucester, Ma.

“Approximately $1 million a mile for 65 miles of the great three-quarter circle from Gloucester on the North Shore to the high speed interchange in Braintree where it will meet the Southeast Expressway coming south from Boston. Cost of the 65 miles, all competed or now under construction, is a bit less than $65 million. That covers land damages, engineering, planning and construction costs since Route 128’s start back in 1936.”

“Rt. 128 has earned name, “Avenue of Modern Industry”: Million Dollar a Mile Gold Road” by K.S. Bartlett, Boston Globe

photo descriptions:

“Contractors building the 1.7 miles of the Gloucester extension found huge rocks dropped by visiting glaciers tens of thousands of years ago. More than half a million tons of rock (many kinds and varieties of hardness and weight) plus earth and plain dirt have been taken out to make your driving easier. Her you’re looking at one of the tough spots during the last weeks of construction.”

“Want a bit of New England’s famed chowder? You’re at the right place. The Gloucester extension of Route 128 ends at Eastern Avenue in Gloucester and just around the corner is Fish-Pier at the head of the Inner Harbor.”

The approach to the bridge they dubbed “Rail Cut Hill”.

Original plans pre 1953, 1953, & 1954

Some of the homes date from this time. Department of Public Works, Gloucester, MA. Higher resolution PDF here – or lower resolution images below

ca. 1950 (scan from original)

1953

1954

2021 Bertoni neighborhood

Approximately 3 months project nearing completion (thanks to digging into standard clay rather than granite ledge). This week, the crews have reached the storm water drain reconfiguration stage.

View from Bertoni Rd. to RT. 128. Old clay sewer line deliberately closed 2021. Bertoni Rd. is a dead end street that originally connected to Gloucester Avenue (on the other side of the highway)

Salt Island Road | Brier (Briar) Neck neighborhood

In contrast, Salt Island Road, Brier/Briar Neck neighborhood took six months for similar work because of granite ledge and compact density.

In the news: as #GloucesterMA Annisquam River Bridge readies for MBTA rebuild – is there time for design?

I don’t suggest that the treacherous bridge needs to be “preserved” or want to impede progress. However, I believe there is still time to repeat my pleas (since 2012). Great design impacts future investment. Is there a small way that the design can tip its hat to Edward Hopper, Gloucester, and New England for this landmark and beacon for Cape Ann, this cherished vista across the Great Marsh?

See GMG POST September 9, 2017 for design nod aesthetic suggestions (rather than structural) The budget is good!  “Does the MBTA new design for the Annisquam River Bridge look like a prison tower to you?” 

Here’s how the bridge and new condos looked November 9, 2018 (double click to enlarge photos from the wordpress mosaic format)

 

 

January 8, 2019 article by Ray Lamont Gloucester Daily project. “READYING FOR REBUILD”

the design plans illustrated are the same as published previously

gloucester daily times ray lamont coverage new annisquam commuter bridge january 2019

catherine-ryan-identifying-edward-hopper-annisquam-river-bridge.jpg

 

Does the #MBTA new design for the #Annisquam River bridge look like a prison tower to you?

MBTA Gloucester bridge sim

The tower and the scale of the concrete column brought to mind the opening scenes of Dr. Zhivago with Alec Guinness looking for his niece. Here’s a TCM film clip to give you some idea of what I mean despite cutting off right before the pan up to the guard tower.

Dr Z still

 

Here’s how the Annisquam bridge looks today.

20170909_080624

 

Mostly great gorgeous marsh.

Its scale suits the site and often disappears. American artist Edward Hopper painted a close up in 1923.

landscape-with-bridge-watercolor-whitney1

There are four significant Edward Hopper artworks that are related to the commuter train he took from NYC to Gloucester, MA. I sent the images to Fay Spofford & Thorndike for their reference as in my professional experience any architects and engineers that I’ve worked with were keen on historic links. They couldn’t have known this one. Until I corrected the records in 2011, the Hopper watercolor was misattributed as an unidentified landscape, likely Maine or Massachusetts. It’s definitely Massachusetts–the Annisquam River train bridge in Gloucester, MA, to be precise. If you live here, you know that scene by heart. Hopper captured most every gateway to Gloucester. A 2012 photograph by Allegra Boverman reporting on bridge damage for the Gloucester Daily Times, zoomed in just so, helped me illustrate the match.

Catherine Ryan identifying Edward Hopper Annisquam River Bridge

I also shared the exciting Hopper news and connections with then Mayor Kirk, community development, Senator Tarr, the Gloucester Daily Times, and the Boston Globe. I wasn’t speaking to them about the design as I felt the state and the architects and engineers would be on that.

I have no idea when that distinct yellow shack–a mini me Cape Ann motif– was no longer there: perhaps it could be recreated, or a nod to the A Piatt Andrew bridge could be referenced with some planning? Maybe some of the diagonals of the old structure, or some other New England elements at the abutment sides could be incorporated into the design?

A couple of years later, I found an old Good Morning Gloucester post by Fredrik D. Bodin. There’s no mistaking that two level shack! I wish I could have spoken with him about the Curtis photograph.

a8767_017wm FRED BODIN little yellow house motif like and new england building on right

I don’t suggest that the treacherous bridge needs to be “preserved” or want to impede progress.  However, if there is a small way that the design can tip its hat to Hopper, Gloucester, New England…why not? It is a landmark, a beacon for Cape Ann.  It’s very exciting that the project is going out to bid. I hope the winning firm mitigates the design to temper any possible prison comparison. Leave the pier-column design but adjust the tower? Can it be both structurally sound and inspiring?

What if Edward Hopper couldn’t take the train? MBTA train closure mitigation forum June 5 City Hall Gloucester

MBTA Mitigation Public Forum June 5 at 6:30pm in Gloucester City Hall-Kyrouz 2nd floor

landscape with bridge watercolor whitney

One of the most celebrated and beloved American artists of the twentieth century, Edward Hopper, frequently traveled by public rail from New York to Gloucester. Usually it’s fairly simple to experience Gloucester as Hopper and other notables did–by train and on foot. Hopper walked to lodgings just a short jaunt from the train station in downtown Gloucester and to the many sites he sketched and painted. The result was more than 110 works of art, including views of the Annisquam River Bridge to Cape Ann, the boarding house in downtown where he stayed, the railroad gates, and numerous other subjects still visible.

Today, the MBTA route that Hopper took not only serves weekday commuters, but brings visitors to this historic port. Trains connect New England history, the arts, and natural beauty. Summer or winter, trains make it easy to reach a beach, historical site, or favorite restaurant, to get out of the bustle and enjoy lingering in our coastal towns. They offer a real allure, crossing some of the most incredibly scenic vistas of our special New England landscape, and seasonally charming riders.

There’s no question that planned closures in the busiest of seasons will have negative impact for commuters and visitors. Desperate infrastructure needs will regrettably impede long lasting economic developments tied to Massachusetts’ cultural assets, out door recreation opportunities, and other attractions. The necessary closures do offer an opportunity to think about how to increase MBTA ridership including promoting New England’s historical, artistic and natural riches–MBTA as “Massachusetts’ green go-Between for the Train and Arts scene.”

photo captions: There are more than 110 Edward Hopper works of art inspired by Gloucester, MA. Four reference trains: that’s how he rolled. Above Untitled Edward Hopper drawing in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art (catalogue “Landscape with Bridge.”) It is Gloucester, MA. I hope the new bridge design can add a little yellow bridge house reference. Below: Allegra Boverman, Gloucester Daily Times,  2012.

Sign up for city notices like this News Flash from Chris Sicuranza, Office of the Mayor Romeo Theken, posted on May 30, 2017:allegra

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