DOVER -- A proposed detour to allow for the replacement of the West Dover Bridge is unacceptable, according to The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

"The alternative route detouring traffic from Route 100 to Tannery Road, Handle Road, Coldbrook Road, back to Route 100 (10.4 miles end-to-end) is not a viable option in our opinion," stated a letter from the board. "The practical, economic, social and life safety effects of this alternative would be staggering at the minimum, catastrophic at worst."

The West Dover bridge, No. 59, is adjacent to the southern entrance to Blue Brook Road and travels over the North Branch of the Deerfield River. According to the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the current bridge is structurally deficient with a poor deck rating and does not meet the hydraulic standard. Its railing does not meet crash standards.

In its letter, The Mount Snow Valley Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors asked Dover and Wilmington town administrators to deny the Agency of Transportation permission to use the towns' secondary roads for its proposed detour.

The chamber suggested that the AOT instead install a temporary bridge.

"This would be done at no cost to the local communities and to their great benefit," the letter concluded.

On Feb. 18, Dover Selectboard Chairman Randy Terk said the project would likely not begin for three to four years. He mentioned that the detour in question would affect businesses, the fire departments, rescue squads and public access.

"There are a number of options," he added. "A lot of people thought the date of this construction was this April but it's not."

The project is expected to take approximately four weeks, but Dover Police Chief Randy Johnson said the installation of a temporary bridge would extend the duration of the project. In addition, costs and property owner impacts would be increased by the temporary bridge option.

The three general methods presented by AOT to maintain traffic included phased construction, temporary bridge or short-term bridge closure with off-site detour. However, the phased construction was ruled out due to unacceptable delays and traffic congestion caused by having only one lane of traffic.

On March 5, the Wilmington Selectboard will address the chamber board's letter at its reorganization meeting.

"Our Selectboard is going to talk about the increased traffic that will come onto our roads," said Town Manager Scott Murphy. "If it was a short period of time of four weeks, it wouldn't be too difficult for our Road Crew to stay up with and maintain. But for an extended period, it could really stress our infrastructure."

He believes that Dover would be more impacted by the loss of the bridge.

Dover Economic Development Director Ken Black said the bridge work could affect a portion of the Valley Trail project -- from the Post Office in the Mountain Park Plaza, up to Route 100 and then to the Kingswood property.

Terk asked if starting a feasibility study for the trail may assist the town with getting a sidewalk put in there.

"I think Matt (Mann) suggested if the town indicated they were serious about putting in the trail, that would weigh in the favor of them adding in a path," said Black. "We're only talking about a five-foot path across that bridge and it would save us hundreds of thousands of dollars. And I think we could certainly get an RFP (Request For Proposals) going very quickly."

He believed that the feasibility study would cost approximately $30,000 and if the state agreed to put in a path by the bridge, that would likely be the most expensive part of the trail project.

The Selectboard voted to allow Black to continue pursuing the study. Although he said it was not guaranteed that the state would agree to add the path, Terk thought it was an important enough issue to raise.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.