State gives $3M to fix, replace 6 unsafe small bridges

  • The Maxwell Road bridge, where Maxwell Brook passes under to join Tatro Brook in Charlemont, is one of six bridges in Franklin County to be repaired or replaced with Municipal Small Bridge Program grants. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Recorder Staff
Published: 3/29/2017 10:52:03 PM

The state Department of Transportation is giving a total of $3 million to six Franklin County towns to preserve, repair or replace dilapidated small bridges.

The Baker-Polito administration announced Wednesday it is awarding $16 million to 36 communities statewide, specifically to aid in construction on municipally owned bridges between 10 and 20 feet long that aren’t eligible for federal aid under other programs.

The Franklin County recipients are: Ashfield, which receives $500,000 to replace the Apple Valley Road bridge; Charlemont, with $490,000 for the Maxwell Road bridge; Colrain, with $500,000 for the Adamsville Road bridge; Warwick, with $500,000 for the Gale Road bridge; Wendell, with $450,000 for the Wendell Depot Road bridge; and Whately, with $497,000 for the Williamsburg Road bridge.

In some cases, the money is essential to replace bridges that have been deemed unsafe for travel and since closed. Warwick’s grant, for example, will allow the town to replace the Gale Road bridge that was closed in October following an unsatisfactory inspection.

“After the bridge (was closed), there were quite a few families who had to leave Warwick in order to get to other places in Warwick,” said Town Coordinator David Young, explaining it was necessary to travel to Orange and then backtrack. “To get to these certain properties, you had to come at it in a nonstandard way.”

Young said he was particularly concerned about the public safety response in case of emergencies, something that MassDOT Highway Administrator Thomas Tinlin recognized as a problem with many of the grant-approved bridges.

“Posting or closure of these bridges can have major impacts on the lives of residents in these communities, with detour routes that are cumbersome, access that is no longer available and delayed emergency response,” Tinlin is quoted as saying in a MassDOT press release.

In Warwick, the detour adds at least four miles to the trip from Warwick’s fire station, however the project also isn’t something the town could pay for right away.

“The community would have been hard-pressed to fund this,” Young said. “It would have taken more than two years of our Chapter 90 grant.”

Young said the Municipal Small Bridge Program grant will cover the full cost of replacing the bridge.

The program was signed into law last August by Gov. Charlie Baker, and over the course of five years, will award $50 million to cities and towns with small bridges that “are at high risk for full or partial closure in the near future due to their present conditions,” according to a MassDOT press release.

“Our administration is proud to collaborate with cities and towns in strengthening our transportation systems and facilitating safe, effective and reliable travel,” Baker is quoted as saying in the release. “With the Municipal Small Bridge Program, we are providing opportunities to municipalities ... to preserve and replace critical infrastructure.”

“Bridges are more than just structures,” said Transportation Secretary and CEO Stephanie Pollack. “They link people to schools, jobs and other important destinations. The Baker-Polito Administration is continuing to work closely with municipalities ... to ensure they have the resources to improve their transportation infrastructure.”


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