Safety report: Casey often drops debris

The most recent Casey Overpass state inspection report states that the safety netting currently installed over parts of the overpass is catching concrete debris that would otherwise fall to the ground. But the fabric itself is suffering from “scattered minor tears.”

The Structures Inspection Field Report, prepared by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) following a Jan. 16 inspection, states that safety netting installed on parts of the overpass over high-traffic areas were already catching falling debris in January, eight months before a large piece of debris fell to the ground. That incident caused traffic over the Casey to be limited for several hours while emergency repairs were under way.

It is unclear whether or how often the debris is cleared out of the netting.

That Aug. 31 incident took place on a section of the bridge that is not covered by the safety netting, near the intersection of Washington Street, New Washington Street and the Arborway, to the east of the Route 39 bus stop. The debris was comprised of loose concrete and asphalt.

The report noted that specific area as having deteriorated concrete and rusted supports. It also mentions that the safety netting was already catching debris where it was installed elsewhere on the bridge.

“As far as the cause, it’s general wear and tear after years of use and exposure to weather. This bridge is at the end of its serviceable life and is in an advanced stage of deterioration,” MassDOT spokesperson Michael Verseckes said.

MassDOT told the Gazette in the weeks following the incident that it has no plans to cover any more of the overpass in safety netting, a stance it still holds. The area underneath the affected supports is still blocked off with yellow safety tape.

The report also states that the safety netting is torn in places.

“It’s most likely weather-related,” Verseckes said, though he said that bridge inspectors will be examining the netting and replacing any sections deemed necessary. He did not give a timeframe for that work.

MassDOT installed the safety netting over the last two years, according to the report. Verseckes had previously told the Gazette that the overpass’s previous owner, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) had installed the netting.

The report notes that three pedestals—the supports that join the road deck to the support pillars—are considered to be in especially poor condition. All of those are in high-traffic areas: one adjacent to Washington Street, one over pedestrian traffic exiting Forest Hills station, and one adjacent to South Street. Those areas are getting annual special inspections.

The pedestal over Forest Hills station was already subjected to repairs during the last year.

The report also states that the overpass is in poor to fair condition, though it remains usable. The three main parts of the overpass are rated 5 (fair), 4 (poor) and 4, on a scale from 9 (excellent) to 0 (failed). According to Verseckes, a structure is closed to the public when one of those parts is rated a 2.

State inspections are usually done every other year, as per Federal Highway Administration guidelines, Verseckes told the Gazette. The Casey is currently on a yearly inspection schedule due to its advanced age, though it is unclear whether a routine inspection, in addition to the special inspection, was done in 2010.

The Gazette acquired the last routine inspection, dated January 2012, and the two previous special inspections—from January 2011 and January 2010—after filing a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with MassDOT.

The overpass is the State Route 203/Arborway bridge over Washington Street and New Washington Street. The aging overpass is due to be demolished and replaced with a network of surface streets starting next year.

(Gazette Photo by Rebeca Oliveira) Commuters walk under the Casey Overpass Oct. 16 under a safety netting-wrapped section.

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