(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
(Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Saturday May 4, 2013

HINSDALE, N.H. -- The town has scheduled for next week two meetings regarding a possible new bridge to Brattleboro, Vt.

State legislators and representatives from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation have been invited to meetings slated for Monday and Friday at Hinsdale Town Hall. Mike Darcy, chairman of the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen, said Monday's meeting will start at 10 or 10:30 a.m. and Friday's will begin at 10.

Darcy said the meetings will be about educating state officials and advocating for funding for a new bridge that will replace the two now spanning the Connecticut River into Vermont.

"We're the ones that have to deal with the bridge so we have to let the people in Concord know how use of the bridges affects us," he told the Reformer. Darcy said the people in the state capital must be lobbied a bit to fully understand the significance of the potential bridge.

State Rep. William Butynski (D-Hinsdale, Chesterfield, Winchester), State Sen. Molly Kelly (D-District 10) and Mark Richardson and Mark Sanborn of the NHDOT have been invited to the Friday's meeting.

Darcy said some town selectmen will also be there. He was unsure if he could make because it is being held during a workday.

Hinsdale and Brattleboro are currently linked by two Pennsylvania truss bridges that were built in 1920 and are now considered "functionally obsolete," yet still safe for traffic. The Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge connects Brattleboro to Hinsdale Island, which is connected to Hinsdale by the Charles Dana Bridge. JB Mack, the principal planner for the Southwest Region Planning Commission, previously told the Reformer federal highway standards dictate the bridges are too narrow and have insufficient weight limits and vertical clearances.

Butynski, who hopes to attend both meetings, said the current bridges are old and a new one would ease a lot difficulties associated with them.

"It's critical in terms of Hinsdale's economic development and safety," he said Friday.

Traffic across the bridges can sometimes be delayed by trains passing on the railroad that passes by one of them. Butynski said the new bridge would go over the railroad tracks and make life easier and safer for emergency personnel that need to transport someone to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital. He said trains pass through about three times a day.

A new bridge would also alleviate traffic at the Brattleboro intersection known as "malfunction junction."

It could also benefit Hinsdale businesses. Butynski said a tax-incentive financing district was created in town about 10 to 20 years ago to entice factories and mills to move there. But, he said, the old bridges have deterred this from happening because company trucks would have to avoid them or drive slowly over them, if they could fit at all.

Butynski said the Monadnock United Way in Keene funded a report by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies that found Hinsdale needs the second-most economic development in the region. Winchester topped the list.

Sanborn, a federal liaison, told the Reformer the meetings will be used to discuss the current status of the project and examine its design and budget. Present parties, he said, will talk about what it will take to acquire funding for the project.

Sanborn said the bridges were inspected earlier this week but could not say what the inspection yielded.

The Board of Selectmen received a letter from Darah P. Kehnemuyi, chairman of the Rescue Inc. Board of Trustees, in support of the construction of a new bridge. Rescue Inc. is headquartered in Brattleboro.

"Hinsdale does not at present have a first response squad, instead relying on its police department, which at any given time may be preoccupied with a different police-related call for service," the letter reads. "A wider bridge passing over the train tracks would have a measurable impact in reducing our response times delayed due to interfering train traffic."

According to Kehnemuyi, the Rescue Inc. vehicles also sustain damage from other vehicle due to the narrowness of the current bridges.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.