The week the ground broke and other stories

Tuesday July 29 was the day that the contractor for the Mass. Ave. project finally busted through the road’s aging pavement, constricted the flow of traffic, and raised a (small) cloud of dust.

Contractor J.H. Lynch has been busy on the street since May with survey and prep work.

A backhoe delves into Mass Ave. at Wyman St. on July 29.

The cut was at Wyman Street, where storm drains and possibly other utilities must be shifted.

The day before, Arlington experienced another extreme weather event. A flash flood temporarily closed part of Mass. Ave. in East Arlington and did some real damage to the Alewife Greenway.

Did the storm-drain protectors installed last week contribute in any way to the road flooding? These portable catch basins are required by MassDOT to stop construction debris from flowing through the storm drains that empty into Spy Pond and the Alewife Brook.

They certainly caught a lot of road debris on Monday. Some were removed after the storm.

Drain protector next to naked drain. These protectors were not very full, unlike some still in place further east.

Drain protector next to naked drain. These protectors were not very full, unlike some still in place further east.

Recall however that during the previous week the contractor removed a substantial pile of gunk from the permanent catch basins that are inside the drains below grade.

It’s possible therefore that even with the drain protectors the rate of flow was about the same or even better than it would have been had the storm hit 2 weeks earlier.

In any case, work resumed and by the end of Monday the project’s John Deere loader backhoe had unloaded some hefty hardware onto the staging area on Grafton St.

Grafton St. on Tuesday morning. Click to see larger view of hardware, drain debris pile, wrapped tree, John Deere.

Grafton St. on Tuesday morning. Click to see larger view of hardware, drain debris pile, wrapped tree, John Deere.

This photo is actually from Tuesday. Look closely to see the top of the black pile of drain gunk visible behind the concrete cylinders in the foreground at center right.

The John Deere played no role in busting up the road on Tuesday, however. That office was performed by a Caterpillar M332D, a larger and more-specialized excavator. You can see it at work in the first photo.

When I saw the backhoe at work just before 9 AM, this construction was not causing a traffic jam, though eastbound traffic was down to one lane and cars did slow and sometimes stop.

The Cat remained parked on site overnight. Traffic was constricted to one lane overnight for at least one of the days during the week, though that may have been because of work in the same block by National Grid.

Not that it matters, but this state of affairs is not exactly that described at the information meeting at the Thompson School on June 16.

Then, Gregory Oswitt of contractor J.H. Lynch & Sons told the community that there would be only one truck for this phase of the project, which would spend every night on Grafton Street after construction ends at 3:30 PM.

A 24-hour construction presence could be an issue for businesses and especially eastbound between Bates Road and Lake Street, the only stretch of Mass. Ave. where peak demand is so great as to require two lanes.

Work continued at Wyman throughout the week, moving gradually east along the block. By Friday the Caterpillar had dug this hole by Allen Street:

Construction reached Allen St. (in background) on Friday. View is NE.

Construction reached Allen St. (in background) on Friday. View is NE.

Workers closed the finished holes with gravel as work advanced.

I did see the John Deere roll up Mass. Ave. on Friday, not to dig but to carry something to the construction site. Or perhaps it traveled to the site to unload gravel or sewer hardware from another truck. By the time I caught up it was heading back to Grafton St.

Survey work also continued last week, and I saw that some pavement had been cut precisely along some of the survey marks as if with a knife. Actually probably with some kind of circular blade, though I did not see the tool used.

The loose drain protectors remained uncollected, and some drains unprotected, through the weekend. Maybe they will be restored as construction approaches each drain.

All of the drains around the actual construction near Allen Street had yellow protectors in place.

At the end of work near Wyman Street the site was tidied and two lanes of traffic restored. The parking lane is currently cordoned off and includes a gravel pile.

Cat 2

Because Allen St. is extra wide where it meets Mass. Ave., there is plenty of room for this excavator over the weekend. The width will be normalized as part of this project.

Heap 2

Catch-basin debris remains piled on Grafton St.

The Caterpillar is tucked out of the way in the extra-wide space at the mouth of Allen Street; the John Deer sits behind the heap-o-detritus on Grafton St.

Construction follows nearly six years of planning for the project, which began in October 0f 2008. Public concern about the safety and design of the street dates back to at least 1996.

Click here for recent construction news.

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