Meeting on Rourke Bridge study Monday night

LOWELL — The Northern Middlesex Council of Governments will hold another meeting as part of its Rourke Bridge study Monday, at 6:30 p.m. ,in the Clark Auditorium at Lowell General Hospital.

At the gathering, the project team will present the recommendations in its Rourke Bridge Corridor Study Draft Report.

The report includes the advancement of three bridge alternatives to the environmental permitting process, as well as other initiatives to improve transportation within the study area.

The draft report is available at www.rourkebridgestudy.com/documents.html.

NMCOG is accepting comments on the draft report at the meeting, as well as via email at bwoods@nmcog.org. Comments can also be sent by mail to 40 Church St., Suite 200, Lowell, MA 01852.

NMCOG is accepting comments until Oct. 18.

The Rourke Bridge project is analyzing existing and future traffic conditions within the study area and examining the feasibility of replacing the temporary bridge with a permanent structure.

The study is known as the “Rourke Bridge, Wood Street, Westford Street and Drum Hill Road Corridor Study and Feasibility Analysis project.”

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Consultants update Council on Rourke Bridge plans

LOWELL — The team studying a potential permanent replacement for the Rourke Bridge has identified four alignments it believes are most deserving of consideration for a new span there.

Consultants who have helped lead the Northern Middlesex Council of Government’s Rourke Bridge study told the City Council Tuesday that all four proposals would call for a four-lane bridge, as opposed to the two lanes on the temporary span over the Merrimack River that is almost 30 years old.

The estimated cost for the four proposals in 2025 dollars ranges from $54.5 million to $82.4 million.

It would likely take at least eight years for any of the proposals to move from the start of the process to the end, members of the study team told the council. Environmental permits would have to be secured, the design phase would have to be completed, and construction would follow afterwards.

One of the four alignments would keep the new bridge in pretty much the same footprint as the temporary structure and cost $54.5 million, while a second alternative would move the bridge’s alignment about 1,200 feet west so it would touch down near the bowling alley on Pawtucket Boulevard. It would cost an estimated $60.9 million.

A third alignment being considered would also shift west and have a grade-separated ramp system that ties into Old Ferry Road. The projected cost is $82.4 million.

The fourth alternative under consideration would shift the bridge west so it would

intersect directly with Old Ferry Road. The cost estimate is $67.8 million.

None of the proposals would significantly alter Wood Street, which consultants said would be difficult to widen because it would have significant impact on property owners.

No construction funding for a new bridge has been secured, Laura Castelli, a project manager with VHB, told the council.

Beverly Woods, NMCOG’s executive director, said the council should request the city’s Statehouse delegation make clear to the state’s Department of Transportation a permanent Rourke Bridge is a city priority. Castelli told the council an endorsement of one or more of the plans would be helpful.

The council requested a letter be sent to the delegation and plans to discuss the Rourke Bridge study further at a transportation subcommittee in the future.

Councilor Ed Kennedy also suggested the city reach out to communities surrounding Lowell to seek their support for the project. Councilors Rodney Elliott and Joseph Mendonca said the faster the project can commence, the better.

The NMCOG study group plans to have another public meeting and public-comment period before releasing a final draft report with recommendations sometime this summer.

Follow Moran on Twitter @lylemoran.

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