Timeline for Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repairs taking shape

After an inspection on Aug. 24, the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, connecting Shelburne and Conway, was closed.

After an inspection on Aug. 24, the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, connecting Shelburne and Conway, was closed. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By BELLA LEVAVI

Staff Writer

Published: 11-26-2023 1:18 PM

CONWAY — With the state Department of Transportation’s Project Review Committee having approved a repair project for the closed Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, a timeline is taking shape for potential design work and construction.

“MassDOT is working through the standard process of assigning a design consultant and determining the scope of work,” agency spokesperson John Goggin wrote in an email. “MassDOT expects to issue the consultant a notice to proceed in summer 2024.”

Design timelines are approximately two years long, according to Goggin. The project would then need to be factored into the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) for appropriate funding to be identified, making fiscal year 2027 the earliest this project could be advertised for construction.

“It should be noted that the Project Review Committee’s approval is not a commitment of state or federal funding to the project,” MassDOT District 1 Highway Director Francisca Heming wrote in a letter to the Shelburne Selectboard. “The estimated advertisement date may change significantly as the project development process advances.”

After a routine MassDOT inspection on Aug. 24, the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, connecting Shelburne and Conway, was closed with no reopening timeline given. According to Goggin, MassDOT found “deterioration of the weathering steel beams” on the Conway side, as well as “significant deteriorated and section loss on the beams.”

While the bridge is closed, travelers are encouraged to use Shelburne Falls Road or Route 116 as detours. Pedestrians and cyclists are still able to cross the bridge, but Goggin said MassDOT will continue to monitor the bridge’s condition and make future adjustments if needed.

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Prior to the most recent inspection, the bridge was last inspected on July 20, 2021.

The Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge was originally built in 1882 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000.

The 198-foot span of the bridge hangs 40 feet above the Deerfield River.

The deck of the bridge has been replaced in the past, but few other alterations are evident, according to documents filed with the National Register of Historic Places.

When the documents were filed in 2000, the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge was one of fewer than 50 bridges of this tress type surviving in the United States and one of only 10 remaining in Massachusetts.

The bridge was previously closed in the 1990s, and Conway Selectboard Chair Philip Kantor said the last major repairs were completed in 1995.

The bridge was also closed for a period in 1997 when a truck driver smashed into it.

MassDOT has assigned the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repairs a project number of 613480.

Progress can be tracked at bit.ly/49S7rkX.

Bella Levavi can be reached at blevavi@recorder.com.