HINSDALE, N.H. -- The New Hampshire Department of Transportation has replaced the sidewalks of the two bridges linking Brattleboro, Vt., to Hinsdale.
NHDOT Public Information Officer Bill Boynton told the Reformer his department's bridge maintenance crews inspect the wooden sidewalk planks on an annual basis and replace the ones that are in poor condition. He said the sidewalks on the Hinsdale bridges have not been completely rehabilitated since 1987 and wooden sidewalks typically have much shorter lifespans than the ones replaced. Boynton said the work was completed on May and the estimated cost is $24,000.
The renovation did not go unnoticed by Hinsdale resident Mike Mulligan, who is known for his public demonstrations aimed at drawing attention to the bridges and their deterioration.
"Isn't that kind of amazing?" he said Friday about the new sidewalks, though he still thinks it will still be a long time before the new bridge becomes a reality. He said he hopes the refurbishment will have a ripple effect and speed up the bridges' replacement.
Mulligan was arrested during the summer for allegedly pulling up the wooden planks of the sidewalk on the Charles Dana Bridge. Mulligan said he did so because some of the boards were loose. On Feb. 26, he reached a plea deal and agreed to pay a $1,000 fine, plus a $240 penalty assessment, if he cannot pay $1,253.76 in restitution within a year for damage he caused to the portion of the Charles Dana Bridge designated for pedestrians. In exchange for pleading guilty to one misdemeanor charge of criminal mischief, he must also avoid going within 100 feet of that structure or the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge, except for routine travel without stopping, or risk the fine and penalty assessment.
He was originally charged with reckless conduct, disorderly conduct, and two counts of criminal mischief. He also received a ticket for littering.
The two structures that connected Brattleboro to Hinsdale are Pennsylvania truss bridges built in 1920. 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, has told the Reformer federal highway standards dictate the bridges are too narrow and have insufficient weight limits and vertical clearances. They are considered "functionally obsolete."
Currently, all ambulances and other emergency services exiting Hinsdale must cross both existing bridges and risk being stopped by the railroad tracks on the Vermont side. There is now a plan to replace the structures with one that will begin near the stop light at the former Walmart location in Hinsdale, span the Connecticut River, the southern portion of Hinsdale Island and the Merrill Gas Company tank farm on Vernon Road and before touching down near Brattleboro's "malfunction junction." Under the current plan, referred to as Alternative F, the Anna Hunt Marsh and Charles Dana bridges will be rehabilitated and preserved for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. The new bridge would result in minimal changes to existing land uses, according to a draft environmental assessment, and the potential for indirect growth impact and project-related growth impacts is also minimal. The assessment also says no agricultural lands would be affected by construction of Alternative F, which was chosen as the best plan.
The project will reportedly be funded by the Federal Highway Administration.
Domenic Poli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoli_reformer.