BRATTLEBORO -- On Monday night, the public will have a chance to weigh in on a major bridge project that could start as soon as next summer.
And there appears to be no shortage of questions about Vermont Agency of Transportation’s proposal to replace the Interstate 91 bridge spanning the West River and Route 30 in Brattleboro.
That includes concerns about how often heavily-traveled Route 30 will shut down and which detour those displaced drivers will choose.
"We’re advocating for trying to keep (Route 30) open as much as possible during the construction phase," said Zeke Goodband, a Dummerston Selectboard member.
The public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday at Brattleboro Union High School’s multipurpose room.
"The agenda is to briefly review the project details and present design alternatives," said Matt Mann, a Windham Regional Commission senior planner who specializes in transportation issues.
"It’s also to seek input from municipal officials and abutting property owners as well as from the general public," Mann said.
State officials have said the side-by-side spans, completed in 1960, still are safe for traffic but are rated as structurally deficient due to deterioration. Their narrowness also makes them functionally obsolete by current standards.
Though replacing the spans could cost as much as $45 million, a VTrans official has said replacement is preferable to investing
Lew Sorenson, who represents Dummerston on the Windham Regional Commission, said he understands that the bridge "is nearing the end of its functional life." But he also wants to ensure that state officials consider the project’s impacts on local traffic.
In particular, Dummerston officials worry that -- if and when Route 30 must be closed for removal of the I-91 bridge above -- motorists will swarm onto side routes not meant to handle such traffic.
"It’s going to mean all that Route 30 traffic is going to be directed through Upper Dummerston Road, and some will go over the covered bridge and the Green Iron Bridge," Goodband said.
Even if those are not official detours, "drivers look for alternate routes and escape routes when things get backed up," Sorenson said at a recent Dummerston Selectboard meeting.
"If Dummerston isn’t at the table, things are going to be overlooked," he said. "And we’ll pay for it later."
The new bridge’s potential design also is a concern in the scenic Route 30 corridor.
Many residents "would like to see a bridge that takes into consideration aesthetic concerns," Goodband said.
He noted that VTrans officials held a meeting on the project earlier this year in Dummerston. But Goodband and others also expect to attend Monday’s session.
"I don’t think you can overdo public comment on a project of this size," he said.
The project’s manager has told the Reformer that state officials don’t want to see Route 30 shut for an extended period. Mann noted, however, that some of the design-build project’s details won’t be finalized until a contractor is selected.
"It’s going to be a little bit more clear later on," he said.
Mann also said the project could begin as soon as late summer 2013.
"For this kind of project, it’s definitely fast-tracked," Mann said. "It’s based on the availability of federal funding."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.