Montague officials discuss options to repurpose pedestrian bridge

  • Work on Canal Street infrastructure has been altered now that the Bailey Bridge, the Green Bridge and the pedestrian bridge over the power canal, and the White Bridge over the Connecticut River, are all slated to be replaced. Staff File Photo/Paul Franz

  • The Bailey Bridge, the Green Bridge and the pedestrian bridge over the power canal, and the White Bridge over the Connecticut River, are all slated to be replaced.

Staff Writer
Published: 6/17/2022 3:21:20 PM

MONTAGUE — Following last week’s announcement that three nearby bridges will be replaced as part of a federally funded $56 million project slated to start around 2026, the town discussed ways to repurpose the in-the-works pedestrian bridge — or at least its materials — during this week’s Selectboard meeting.

The state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) recently announced plans for a mass replacement of Turners Falls Road’s “White Bridge,” the cross-canal “Green Bridge” and Sixth Street’s Bailey Bridge, having observed structural issues. All proposed replacement bridges would have pedestrian walkways on them, according to Selectboard Chair Rich Kuklewicz. This, paired with surety that the new bridges would obstruct the site of the Fifth Street pedestrian bridge that was set to be delivered in July, necessitated deliberation by the Selectboard as to how the town should proceed.

The current Fifth Street pedestrian bridge (the smaller brown bridge next to the green vehicle bridge) has been closed since August 2017, when MassDOT found it was not up to code. David G. Roach & Sons Inc. was awarded the construction project with a higher-than-expected low bid of $2.3 million, funded using a MassWorks grant.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey told the Selectboard this week that he notified the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development of the contract amendment request to remove the pedestrian bridge from the scope of work. Ramsey hopes for this request to be finalized later this summer. He also said Montague is “80% into the cost” of the project. The bridge has been ordered and fabrication has been initiated, he said, but assembly has been halted.

“The structure itself presents probably the majority of the sunk costs at this point,” Ramsey noted.

The contractors prepaid for 80% of the prefabricated bridge structure, Ramsey said. This cost around $190,000. The cost to complete the 150-foot bridge would be around $40,000, a figure that includes delivery costs and represent the final 20%.

Last week, Ramsey said that thus far, around $300,000 of the grant funding has been spent on design costs and preparatory utility installation at the intersection of Fifth and Canal streets. Ramsey reasoned that money spent on water, sewer and drainage systems would not be a waste, regardless of whether Montague puts in the planned pedestrian bridge.

This week, he said, underground utilities and stormwater systems have been installed at the intersection. The area is now being prepared for paving, set to begin around July 7. Ramsey added that the Department of Public Works is coordinating with the contractor to pave a top coat along the entire length of Canal Street later this summer. Plus, granite curbing and new alleyway guardrails will be installed.

Ramsey said Montague is asking if the state or MassDOT has any interest in an alternate use for the bridge.

“Montague obviously doesn’t have any planned or suitable location for a 150-foot-span pedestrian bridge,” Ramsey said.

The bridge would have been shipped to Montague in three 50-foot sections, according to Ramsey. He suggested that while the town has no alternative location for the bridge at full length, a smaller version might be useful.

“If we want to entertain the option,” he said, “we could possibly have them construct the smaller bridge that is more easy to install, much cheaper to install and might have more practical uses — like a footbridge crossing a stream, for example — but I haven’t explored that in full as an option.”

Its most likely value, though, remains as scrap metal, according to Ramsey. Kuklewicz brainstormed ideas for how the town could repurpose the steel at this week’s meeting, suggesting that Ramsey could field interest from local schools that might be able to use the materials for educational purposes.

Regardless of the outcome, Montague’s own budget remains unscathed.

“It’s not actually our money, so I’m not that worried about it,” Selectboard Clerk Matt Lord said with a smile.

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-772-0261, ext. 261 or jmendoza@recorder.com.


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