Town seeks to replace Fifth Street pedestrian bridge

  • The Fifth Street pedestrian bridge was closed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation soon after the Southworth paper mill went out of business in August 2017. The town sees the bridge as an obstacle to redevelopment of the mill, and wants to replace it through grant funding. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 7/2/2019 4:54:51 PM

MONTAGUE — In hopes of attracting developers to the Southworth building, the town is pursuing grant funding to replace the out-of-service Fifth Street pedestrian bridge, and has hired consultants for the project.

The bridge has been closed for nearly two years. Just after the Southworth paper mill went out of business in August 2017, the bridge failed an inspection by the state Department of Transportation, and is was generally seen to be beyond repair and in need of replacement, Town Administrator Steve Ellis said.

There has been interest in redeveloping the mill, but the lack of a pedestrian bridge is seen as a problem, Ellis said. There are about 45 parking spaces plus a municipal parking lot across the canal from the mill, but without the bridge they are not easily accessible from the mill.

“We can’t say that we have any fabulous new announcements to make relative to Southworth, but we remain very optimistic, just based on the level of interest we’ve seen in that building, that it will be redeveloped,” Ellis said. “It’s actually, for a mill, in very, very good condition.”

The pedestrian bridge is owned by the town of Montague, and so any replacement or repair is the town’s responsibility. (The green vehicle bridge right next to the pedestrian bridge, on the other hand, is owned by the state, Ellis said.)

A state-sponsored grant program called MassWorks would be a good fit for the project, Ellis said. The grant money would cover the bridge replacement and improvements to the sidewalks on Canal Street from Third Street, Ellis said.

But the grants are competitive, Ellis said, and the application will require technical support.

To help with the narrative and argument of the grant application, the Selectboard hired a consulting firm called CJC Development Advisors, of Springfield, for $4,100. For engineering support, the board hired a design firm called McMahon Engineers and Planners, of Westfield, for $7,000.

Reach Max Marcus at or 413-772-0261, ext. 261.

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