BRATTLEBORO — Selectboard members were all smiles after plans for repairing the Elliot Street bridge — at little cost to the town — were outlined.
"We're hoping to expedite this to get it to you next summer," said Jennifer Fitch, VTrans project manager for the structures section. "Normally, our design process takes anywhere from two to five years. We're looking to do this in five months."
The bridge was considered "a great candidate" for deck replacement as her team looked at similar structures around the state, she said. It crosses the Whetstone Brook and is located between two intersections. With a width now "too narrow" by state standards, VTrans will slightly increase it.
A photograph of a hole in the decking was shown.
"This is something we're very concerned about. Once you see holes like this, you know you got deterioration in other sections of the bridge deck as well. It's just that this area is where you're seeing this exacerbated," said Fitch. "It's basically just going to continue like wildfire. It needs to be addressed."
Some concrete was deteriorating while the rebar was corroding, These were signs that moisture and chloride are getting into the deck, Fitch said. Several parts of the structure are still in relatively good shape.
The bridge's railing is not considered to be safe by current standards. Fitch worried if a vehicle were to crash into the rail, the vehicle might not be able stay in the roadway. Since the bridge is historic, she hopes to replace the rail with a historic one. Other sections, also considered historic, will remain the same.
Constructed in 1946, Fitch said the rolled beam steel girder bridge has a cast-in-place deck that was considered standard for its time. The bridge is owned by the town, which will contribute 2.5 percent of the repair cost. Altogether the estimated total project cost is $595,200.
An eight-week closure for construction is expected next summer. The town will be responsible for posting detour signs.
Town Manager Peter Elwell said the route is used by children walking to school.
"We think it would be a problem for them to have to walk out of the way to get there," he said in support of the timeline.
The only "hurdle" for getting the bids out in March, according to Fitch, is clearing the site for long-eared bats. The issue is being addressed by an environmental section of VTrans.
"If they roost on the bridge, basically we can't do construction work because the bats are considered endangered at this point," Fitch said. "We have some really innovative ideas to keep the bats out."
No other concerns came up as police, fire and public works officials were polled along with Selectboard members. They held buzzers to answer multiple choice questions during the presentation.
The board approved agreements with VTrans involving a right-of-way, financing and maintenance.
"It's so widely used. It's an amazing bridge," said Selectboard member John Allen. "I use it everyday. I'm just amazed there hasn't been an accident."