Beam collapse causes abrupt closure of Route 183 (Park Street) bridge

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By Tuesday, Apr 4 News  12 Comments
Terry Cowgill
During reconstruction of the Park Street Bridge (Route 183) in Housatonic, Mass., a beam collapsed into the Housatonic River. The bridge is now closed.

Housatonic — A portion of the Route 183 bridge over the Housatonic River has collapsed, causing its complete closure at least through Friday, April 7, “in order to allow MassDOT engineers to safely evaluate the condition of the bridge beams,” MassDOT spokesman Patrick Marvin said in a written statement.

In an email this morning, MassDOT Resident Engineer Rich Miskinis said: “Unfortunately an emergency closure of the bridge occurred this morning due to a safety concern. Information is preliminary at this point but the bridge will be closed for at least a few days.”

Workers at the site confirmed that a beam had collapsed on the southern flank of the bridge sometime this morning. Indeed, a chasm of three feet or more could be seen running the length of the southern side. A pair of concrete strips surrounding the beam had fallen into the river, forming a V-shape whose lower portion disappeared in the roiling waters on a rainy day.

Workers from J.H. Maxymillian referred further inquiries to the MassDOT communications office in Boston, which issued the release late Tuesday (April 4) afternoon without directly acknowledging the collapse.

“These operations are necessary to ensure public safety as MassDOT discovered additional deterioration while preparing beams for removal on the closed section of the bridge as part of an ongoing construction project,” Marvin said.

MassDOT has implemented a traffic management plan that includes variable message boards to inform the public, including one at the intersection of Route 183 and Route 7 (Stockbridge Road).

The Park Street Bridge, with one end of the collapse beam submerged in the Housatonic River. Photo: Terry Cowgill

The Park Street Bridge, with one end of the collapse beam submerged in the Housatonic River. Photo: Terry Cowgill

The department says the signed detour utilizes Route 7, Route 102 and Route 183 in towns of Great Barrington and Stockbridge. Motorists using those routes should expect delays, reduce speed, and use caution. MassDOT advises motorists to seek alternate routes between Great Barrington, Housatonic and Stockbridge on Route 183 until further notice.

The Park Street Bridge is currently under construction and had been reduced to one lane anyway, although the pedestrian walkway on the northern flank still remains open after the mishap. The bridge, which was built in 1969, was deemed by MassDOT in a recent report to be “structurally deficient and functionally obsolete.”

The bridge spans the Housatonic River and consists of a single 104-foot span, 40 feet wide curb-to-curb, with concrete abutments and wingwalls, and precast concrete box beams. Local historians say it is not historically significant.

Among its deficiencies, MassDOT found, is beam deterioration, poor load posting, a tight horizontal curve on the eastern approach and no sidewalk on the northeast approach. Water seeped through the joints in the decking, which accelerated the bridge’s problems and resulted in icicles forming underneath during the winter months.

A recent inspection report rated both the deck and the beams a 2 out of 10 or “critical” with the substructure rated 7 or “good.” When completed, the new bridge will have an estimated lifespan of 75 years. The estimated cost of the project is $3.4 million, MassDOT said two years ago at a public information meeting.


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12 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Jeremy says:

    I want to know what school the bridge engineering department for the state went to? This incident, plus the fiasco with the bridge on Route 7 in Sheffield shows that obviously they do not do a thorough inspection of the bridges before they release a plan of correction. Yes, I know things pop up unexpectedly, but these things seem like they should stick out like a sore thumb.

    1. Mark Silver says:

      Really, Jeremy. You are an expert on bridges? You know enough to know that the engineers should/ could have seen this coming? I’m sure there are things you know something about. Stick to those subjects.

      Me, I’ll be grateful no one was hurt and that while I was getting high in college, someone was studying engineering and can fix the bridge.

      1. Jeremy says:

        I never said I was an expert on bridges. But my common sense thinking tells me that something as catastrophic as a piece of the bridge FALLING INTO THE RIVER should have been noticed prior to it happening. Maybe I’m wrong. I hope I am, and that it was a freak thing and not shoddy inspections or engineering. It’s just concerning that the bridge had been open just before this and it was deemed safe to drive on.

      2. Mark Silver says:

        That’s the point, isn’t it. You don’t know anything about bridges but you know that “obviously they didn’t do a thorough inspection.” Maybe. But maybe they did know there were structural problems (the bridge was to be closed for repairs starting this week) but science isn’t at the point that they can know it will fall this week? Or maybe there’s an engineer who has been warning of this for weeks but there was no money or too many other bridges needing work but we taxpayers complain too much. (I don’t know anything about bridges either so I’m not saying these are actually even possibilities.)

        My point is, why jump to conclusions, especially when you don’t know what you are talking about, and why assume people whose identity and qualifications you know nothing about are the problem. What cause does that serve other than the growing and destructive voice that thinks there are simple solutions (read, Boarder Wall) to complicated problems? Why assume the worst and voice it publicly as if it’s obvious?

      1. Ted B. says:

        Hi Dave !

  2. Jonathan Hankin says:

    Just glad the bridge was closed when this happened! Could have been catastrophic.

  3. Ted B. says:

    The sad thing is that I remember the last time they rebuilt this bridge when I was a kid….just doesn’t seem that long ago. My how time flies !

  4. Sonny says:

    Talking to a guy working on the bridge did state that for years and years all the salt on the bridges put down in winter and winter does take a toll on concrete in the joints now that to me makes sense

    1. Michelle Loubert says:

      That is true. My late father was mason. Wouldn’t allow salt to be used on our house’s brick steps, etc.

  5. Fred Clark says:

    I’m waiting for the next shoe to drop. The state Division of Environmental Protection can’t be happy that big chunks of concrete are falling into the river. I expect the state to lay down the law to these contractors and impose stricter guidelines for demolition over the river.

    This beam fell as a direct result of the demolition efforts, not (solely) because of advanced decay. I drove over the bridge at 7am and the contractors were all standing around looking into the hole, wondering what happened overnight. The river is about as high as ever and they will not be able to remove it until the river recedes.

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