Bridge of Flowers repair project to proceed with extra $900K grant

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon.

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon.

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon.

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon.

The majority of the plants on the Bridge of Flowers in Shelburne Falls have been removed in preparation for the repair project that is beginning soon. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By VIRGINIA RAY

For the Recorder

Published: 06-13-2024 5:22 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Following a $900,000 increase to a grant from MassWorks, repair work on the Bridge of Flowers is expected to proceed later this month.

The initial grant of $2,298,000 from MassWorks, which is run by the state Executive Office of Economic Development, has been increased to $3,198,000. The Bridge of Flowers will close to the public on Friday, June 21, with work scheduled to begin the following week.

According to Zach Chornyak from Tighe & Bond, an amendment request was sent to MassWorks after only one company submitted a bid — Northern Construction Service LLC of Palmer — for the repair project. The company’s bid came in over the original grant amount.

“Bidders inherently assume they are bidding competitively and, as such, propose the most aggressive pricing that they are comfortable with. In this case, only one bidder ended up submitting,” Chornyak explained. “As a result, several contractors were asked for the reasons why they did not submit bids. The feedback received was that due to the amount of work available, many bidders were already at their workload capacity and that less risky projects were more advantageous to pursue.”

Chornyak said the request sent to MassWorks included an explanation of the bid outcome and feedback from contractors.

“We are very happy that the additional funds were awarded, which is a testament to the decision-makers at MassWorks recognizing the economic importance of the Bridge of Flowers,” he said.

In 2020, Tighe & Bond engineers were hired to complete a structural assessment of the bridge. The assessment was done to review cracking on the north side wall and took into consideration the extreme flooding during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. There has not been a major structural improvement project on the bridge since 1983.

The study recommended addressing cracks and stabilizing the north spandrel wall. Tighe & Bond also noted that some of the rebar supporting the walls is failing, though the bridge is not considered to be in imminent danger.

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The Shelburne Falls Fire District is working to identify another funding source as while there is enough money to pay the contractor, there is no contingency money. The district will search for about $300,000 for contingency funding, but decided the project needs to be started so as not to miss this construction season.

At a pre-construction meeting that was held at the Fire District office May 30, the contractor indicated that soil on the bridge will be removed and later replaced, without needing to stockpile it locally. It is not anticipated that many parking spots in the village will be needed by those working on the bridge.

Local fire and EMS representatives attended the meeting and were amenable to the daily communication plan.

All bushes and trees that can be saved have been removed for future replanting. With input from the Bridge of Flowers Committee, the bridge’s iconic wisteria will be removed in such a way that it can be used to make art.

“This is great news,” said Bridge of Flowers Committee Chair Annette Szpila. “We are moving forward to have the necessary repairs done on the bridge. We are grateful to the [Executive Office of Economic Development] for listening to the Shelburne Falls Fire District and Tighe & Bond, and approving the additional funds. Now, breathing a little easier, we can look forward to a safe bridge, complete with some upgrades and an abundance of flowers and plantings for many years to come.”

Virginia Ray serves on the Bridge of Flowers Committee in the role of secretary and spearheading publicity.