Montague’s Center Street Bridge closes amid structural concerns

  • Photos taken by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) that depict rust holes in the steel support structure of the Center Street Bridge in Montague. Courtesy Photo/MassDOT

  • Photos taken by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT) that depict rust holes in the steel support structure of the Center Street Bridge in Montague. Courtesy Photo/MassDOT

  • The Center Street Bridge over the Sawmill River in Montague Center is closed indefinitely in the wake of a recent state inspection. STAFF PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 6/1/2022 4:38:50 PM

MONTAGUE — The Center Street Bridge over the Sawmill River has been closed indefinitely in the wake of a recent inspection conducted by the state Department of Transportation (MassDOT).

According to MassDOT, the Highway Division conducts inspections every two years or less on municipally owned bridges spanning 20 feet or greater. Montague Department of Public Works Superintendent Tom Bergeron said he received word of the latest inspection’s findings, as well as instructions for how to display signs, from MassDOT last week.

The bridge, which was built in 1937 and had already been reduced to single-lane traffic in 2018 due to structural concerns, was reported to “have areas of severe rust delamination with moderate to severe section loss” throughout six of its support beams, as noted in the recent inspection report.

The Center Street Bridge is a concrete structure, with steel beam supports underneath that have since deteriorated. Bergeron said that while the bridge’s change to single-lane traffic in 2018 was “good advance notice that at some point, it was going to close down,” the need for complete closure still came as something of a surprise.

“There was nothing to predict when it was going to close,” Bergeron said.

Ellis said the 2018 de-rating of the bridge came “in rapid succession” with the de-rating of the parallel South Street Bridge, which suffered similar deterioration. Replacement of the South Street Bridge is also budgeted for fiscal year 2024 and would cost around $2.72 million, with $2.18 million coming from federal funding and around $540,000 coming from state funding. Ellis used these figures to gauge how much the Center Street Bridge replacement can be expected to cost.

“This would be a very, very significant investment,” he said.

The replacement for the South Street Bridge, Ellis said, is being designed by MassDOT. He said the fact that the project is listed as a state priority bodes well for it coming to fruition.

“Seeing the (South Street Bridge project) in the prioritized plan demonstrates to us that they have the money to execute the project and provides a timeline for it,” he said.

Ellis said while repair of the Center Street Bridge does not seem like a feasible option, the town is interested in fielding community interest. The topic will be discussed at Monday’s Selectboard meeting.

Drivers are directed to detour through Main Street to Route 47, and then take Route 63 (Federal Street).

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

An earlier version of this story inaccurately described the Center Street Bridge’s status on MassDOT’s list of highway projects. While the parallel South Street Bridge is recognized as a “state-prioritized project” for replacement and funding, the Center Street Bridge has yet to be listed as such.


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