Bridge of Flowers undergoes structural assessment; report expected in November

  • Shawn Shephard, at left, and Brian Brenner, both engineers with Tighe & Bond, conduct a structural assessment on the Bridge of Flowers on Monday. Staff Photo/Maureen O’Reilly

  • Engineers with Tighe & Bond conducted a structural assessment on the Bridge of Flowers on Monday. A full report is expected from the company in November. Staff Photo/Maureen O’Reilly

Staff Writer
Published: 9/9/2019 5:45:11 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — Tourists moseying up and down the Bridge of Flowers on Monday morning were met with the sight of two men in hard hats among the plants.

“This is a structural assessment. This is not a flower and plant assessment,” said Brian Brenner, an engineer with Tighe & Bond, which is assessing the bridge.

In June, the assessment contract was awarded to Tighe & Bond by the Board of Commissioners to the Shelburne Falls Fire District, said Rebekah McDermott, superintendent of the Water Department for Shelburne Falls Fire District. McDermott said the cost of the contract was approximately $20,000.

McDermott said that cracks seen on the bridge in recent years prompted the study.

The assessment had two parts, McDermott said. The internal assessment involved digging an approximately 4-foot deep hole into the top of the bridge.

Plants were removed to give space for digging, done by McDermott and John Ferris, a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Shelburne Falls Fire District.

McDermott reported that what the engineers found was a good sign: the waterproofing material — located beneath the gardens and footpath, but above the bridge itself — is in good shape.

The second part was an external assessment. The bridge was closed to tourists as drones flew around the structure to take photos and video. Later, the bridge was reopened to the general public as a second half of the external assessment began.

A crew in the water, wearing waders, secured the ladder and one person climbed up to knock on the bridge’s concrete in different places. A hollow sound indicates a problem and a solid “click” sound indicates that the concrete is in good shape, Brenner explained.

“We don’t see a safety concern,” he said partway through the morning. “I don’t think there’s anything worth people being concerned about.”

Brenner’s workmate, engineer Shawn Shephard, said he was “trying to minimize any damage to plants” as he commanded a rope that plunged over the side of the bridge, steadying the ladder.

The structural assessment was designed to take a single day, which required a lot of coordination. The Shelburne Falls Fire District worked with the Great River Hydro Dam to ensure low water levels, McDermott said.

Tighe & Bond is expected to turn in a full report in November, which is when fundraising efforts may begin for any necessary repairs, McDermott said. She said she anticipates more cosmetic repairs than structural ones.

The last time structural repairs were made to the bridge was in 1983, when a new water line and structural reinforcements were made, McDermott said. She added that 11 years ago, a structural assessment was started but never finished.

Reach Maureen O’Reilly at 413-772-0261, ext. 280 or

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