Northfield: New Schell Bridge design revealed

  • Above and below: A mockup rendering of the design for the Schell Bridge pedestrian walkway across the Connecticut River between East and West Northfield, scheduled to be completed in 2023. Contributed Images/Schell Bridge Advisory Committee

  • Schell Bridge Advisory Committee—Schell Bridge Advisory Committee

  • The above design was lauded by residents for its lofty openness and gracefulness, according to Judy Wagner, chairwoman of the Schell Bridge Advisory Committee. Contributed Images/Schell Bridge Advisory Committee

Recorder Staff
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

NORTHFIELD — A design for a new Schell Bridge has been chosen by Northfield residents.

Throughout April, the Schell Bridge Advisory Committee collected feedback, through online voting and community meetings, on three design options provided by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation.

Schell Bridge links the east and west sides of Northfield, separated by the Connecticut River. The original bridge fell into disrepair, though, and has been closed to traffic since 1985.

Unlike the old bridge, the new one will be for pedestrians only. There are tentative plans for the bridge to be part of a larger recreational area that would include hiking trails on either side of the river.

About 45 people submitted feedback on the design options, said Judy Wagner, chairwoman of the Schell Bridge Advisory Committee. She said that comments generally focused on the open structure of the bridge and the visibility it would allow. The settled-upon design, which was option No. 3, is the tallest of the three and has the fewest support beams. Wagner said that it was the community’s favorite by a clear margin.

“There were some practically poetic comments,” Wagner said. “Most people really liked the arch height and the ‘gracefulness.’ People used that word. … We really were very pleased with the number of people who sent in information.”

Wagner said that MassDOT’s funding for the project is scheduled to be released in 2021. With an expected construction period of at least 18 months, the new bridge could be completed, at the very soonest, in 2022 or ‘23.

“It’s hard, but we’re in the queue and the queue includes so many other projects across the state,” Wagner said.

At the present stage in the process, MassDOT must review the committee’s design choice, Wagner said. The committee will likely meet again some time this summer, she said, when MassDOT will have made any necessary modifications to the design.

From there, the committee will begin to deciding on the finer, decorative details of the design. Wagner said the committee hopes to salvage pieces of the old bridge to incorporate in the new one.

Contact Max Marcus
at 413-772-0261, ext. 261, or mmarcus@recorder.com.