Bridge grant $8M short of request

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BRATTLEBORO — The federal government recently awarded a $12 million grant to the state of New Hampshire for its Hinsdale-to-Brattleboro bridge project, which is expected to start next year. And though the money is welcome, it is $8 million short of what was requested in the grant proposal.

"We only received $12 million instead of the requested $20 million in grant funds," said Robert Landry, administrator for the N.H. Department of Transportation's bridge design division. "We will need to make up the $8 million different using other funds."

According to Landry, construction costs for the new bridge are $33.5 million for New Hampshire and $8.5 million for Vermont. In addition, the rehab of the existing bridges for pedestrian use is expected to cost Vermont $1.4 million and New Hampshire $6.6 million.

The project will replace the existing twin truss bridges on Route 119 — the Anna Marsh Hunt Bridge and the Charles Dana Bridge, which have connected Hinsdale and Brattleboro since 1926 — and replace them with an 1.800-foot, continuous span about 300 feet south of the current bridges. The new bridge will land on the Vermont side just south of the parking lot for 28 Vernon Street, the property formerly known as the Marlboro College Graduate Center until Renaud Brothers purchased it in August 2018. The pier for the bridge on the Vermont side will be located on property currently owned by Barrows & Fisher and the new bridge will "fly over" the tank farm.

Barrows & Fisher will go before the Brattleboro Development Review Board on Nov. 20 to present a tank relocation plan that will facilitate the support pier of the bridge on the Vermont side.

On the New Hampshire side, access to the new bridge will begin about 1,000 feet south of the current crossing on Route 119, slightly east of George's Field, where Runnings is located. There will also be a supporting pier on the southern tip of what is locally known as The Island. While The Island is under the ownership of the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, the state hopes to convey ownership to Hinsdale. However, the town of Hinsdale has been reticent to accept ownership because it is concerned about the associated costs of maintaining the island and the two closed bridges.

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Construction of the new bridge is expected to start next year and finish in 2022.

According to Southwest Region Planning Commission, this was the third grant application the state had submitted in support of the project. And while the amount granted wasn't the amount requested, Fred Moriarty, a Hinsdale resident and member of the Project Advisory Committee, said the announcement was great news for the project.

"Thanks to all who have been working on grant application after grant application to get this done," he wrote in an email. "We can now clearly see our way to the development of an exciting new role for these classic bridges in serving the Hinsdale/Brattleboro community for generations to come."

U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., and Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., and U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-District 2, issued a press release on Nov. 6 with the news that the U.S. Department of Transportation made the award to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, through the Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant program, to aid in paying for the new Hinsdale-to-Brattleboro bridge and rehabilitate the existing truss bridges for recreational use.

"I'm thrilled to see this federal funding being invested in a new bridge over the Connecticut River," started Shaheen in the press release. "This project is critical for public safety and a boon for economic development in the western part of our state. I'm also excited to see these older bridges used for recreational purposes. This significant grant award is precisely why boosting funds for the BUILD Grant program and other transportation and infrastructure priorities are always top of my list during annual budget negotiations."

"This critical $12 million grant to build a new bridge across the Connecticut River will make a significant difference for Granite Staters, improving the connectivity, economic vitality, and quality of life in the region," stated Hassan.

Bob Audette can be contacted at 802-254-2311, ext. 151, or raudette@reformer.com.


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