French King Bridge safety barrier construction begins

  • A sign hung on the railing at the French King Bridge. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • The French King Bridge safety barrier construction process began on Friday. STAFF PHOTO/JULIAN MENDOZA

  • Fire personnel and the Northfield Dive Team convene on Dorsey Road under the French King Bridge after the report of a possible jumper in February. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • The French King Bridge safety barrier construction process began on Friday. COURTESY PHOTO/GILL POLICE DEPARTMENT

  • A rendering from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation of the new safety barriers to be installed this summer at the French King Bridge. CONTRIBUTED IMAGE

Staff Writer
Published: 5/23/2022 4:53:57 PM

The French King Bridge safety barrier construction process began on Friday, marking an important milestone in what, to many, has been a long-overdue process.

The project to install safety barriers at the bridge, which has garnered a reputation as a destination for suicides, was delayed after being kept off the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s Capital Investment Plan in the spring of 2020. It wasn’t until February 2021, following a series of inquiries from town officials, that MassDOT announced the project is finally moving ahead, with construction planned for this summer.

“I’m very excited that it is finally starting and underway,” Erving Police Chief Robert Holst said. “I know it’s been a lot of hard work getting this underway. It is overdue and needed.”

According to Gill Police Chief Christopher Redmond, work currently underway includes surveying, testing sidewalks and considering the best plans for demolishing existing sidewalks in anticipation of eventually having to install wider sidewalks to accommodate the barriers. There will also be temporary sidewalks installed at some point in the process, he said.

“I believe shortly, there will be signage installed,” Redmond added.

A statement from the Gill Police Department warns local residents to “expect intermittent lane shifts and other road work near the bridge during the next several months.”

“Crews will be working in phases and construction work will vary on a day-to-day basis,” the statement reads.

The project is being funded 80% by the Federal Highway Administration and 20% by MassDOT. David Comerford of MassDOT’s contracted design firm Gill Engineering previously explained the new safety barriers will be 9 feet tall, and are intended to match the style of the bridge and limit disrupting the view of the Connecticut River. By comparison, the existing barriers, which are original to the bridge’s 1932 construction, are roughly 3½ feet tall.

Erving Assistant Town Planner Mariah Kurtz said the project is expected to be carried out over two construction seasons, as was explained by Erving Selectboard Chair Jacob Smith at the May 11 annual Town Meeting.

“I do believe they will finish this season, hopefully before the snow flies, on one side, and then they’ll have to resume construction in spring on the other side,” Smith said at the meeting.

Although Smith said that in terms of “scope and time … we’re talking years,” town officials are simply happy to see movement.

“We’re extremely grateful to everybody who was advocating for these barriers and for MassDOT getting started on this now,” Kurtz said. “We’re looking forward to getting this done and having this community be safer.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or


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