The Town of Woodstock Selectboard last night said they were convinced a 14-to-21 day full closure of North Bridgewater Road is the best option to facilitate a repair of Bridge #23 during the Summer of 2013. They gave their approval to continue planning for the project using the close the road and get the job done approach.
The State of Vermont held a public hearing on the project last night to discuss the pros and cons of building a work-around bridge to keep one lane of the bridge open during repair or simply closing the road. Building an alternative bridge would mean the project would take longer, although traffic would be able to get through. However, single lanes might not afford passage by larger vehicles and regular traffic would still be subject to some delays over a longer period.
Kristin Higgins, VTrans Project Manager, who is also a bridge engineer, gave a slide presentation reviewing the plans and potential costs of doing the repair one way or the other. She said the State is actually trying to incentivize quicker work with a program that reduces the costs to Towns if they opt for the complete “quick-n-dirty” road closure as opposed to an extended time to build a work-around bridge and keep-a-lane-open option.
Higgins estimated the savings to the Town of Woodstock would be approximately 30K if it agrees to a full closure rather than building a temporary bridge. A temporary bridge plan would also impact property owners as it would have to be built on portions of non-Town/non-State road.Higgins said it would also take more time for the State to work out rights-of-way in order to clear the area for building.
Attorney Dennis Shillen who lives in the area did offer some suggestions to minimize the impacts to the environment and to property which Higgins said could be considered.
Higgins says the potential plan for the North Bridgewater Road Bridge (which is closer to Rt. 12 near Prosper Road than to the roads other end at Rt. 4 in Bridgewater) is part of the “ABC: Accelerated Bridge Construction” approach the State of Vermont used quite effectively in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene. Higgins said a lot was learned from the intensive and quick work on many of those Irene-damaged roads and bridges. Under the new plan, the State of Vermont offers contractors and construction companies financial incentives to get the job done more quickly than contracted with financial penalties if the job goes over contracted time.
The Selectboard said it made sense from an in convenience and a cost point of view to opt for the shortened but more drastic impact repair schedule. It would mean just a potential two to three weeks of inconvenience with the Town only paying 5% of the cost of repair as opposed to 10%.
Neighbors and property owners along the road did want to know what the distance of a round-about approach to get from one side of the bridge to the other should they need to during the 14 to 21 day period of construction. It is estimated at approximately 12 miles.
Those living along North Bridgewater Road are also concerned about access for emergency vehicles as there is at least one person who relies on a “Lifeline” responder system. Higgins and Municipal Manager Phil Swanson said the procedures for emergencies would be the same which will be to inform dispatch and that before bridge construction begins, an emergency response plan for firetrucks and ambulances will be established.
The work on the North Bridgewater Road Bridge is not scheduled to begin until next summer.