Bridge rehab detailed in recent meeting

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HINSDALE, N.H. — The bridges connecting Hinsdale to Brattleboro will need a lot of work to keep them safe for pedestrians when the new bridge over the Connecticut River is open to traffic in 2023.

"The most costly repairs will be the lower truss chord replacements," said Josef Bicja of Hoyle Tanner and Associates, which was contracted to review what it will take to rehabilitate the Anna Hunt Marsh and Charles Dana bridges. Bicja said the bridges will require external supports during the process of replacing the chords, which run the entire lengths of both bridges.

"A lot of work needs to happen to replace those members," Bicja said.

The report was presented during a meeting of the Existing Bridges Subcommittee on June 25.

The report notes that under the National Bridge Inspection Standard Condition Ratings, which rates bridges on a scale of 0 to 9, with 9 being the best condition, the overall condition of both bridges is 4, or poor. The superstructure of the 330-foot Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge is rated at 6, or satisfactory and at 5, or fair, for the 200-foot Charles Dana Bridge.

In addition to chord replacement, a number of other bridge components will need to be repaired or replaced.

The list is long and includes repairing or replacing damaged truss verticals and diagonals, the rehabilitation of the bridges' truss gusset plates, the rehabilitation or replacement of bridge bearings, the replacement of expansion joints and the bridge rails, the removal of a sidewalk, repairs to abutments and wingwalls, the installation of removable bollards or gates on each side of the river, and the replacement of the bridge deck.

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"The chords are starting to show degradation, however, there is plenty of redundancy in the support members for these bridges so there is no danger of the bridges falling down," wrote Don Lyford, NH DOT project manager, in an email to the Reformer. "They are on the department redlist, so they get inspected twice a year so we can keep an eye on their condition."

Lyford wrote that the rehab work proposed by Hoyle Tanner is necessary to preserve the bridges and keep them safe for pedestrians and bicyclists and to avoid expensive maintenance in the future.

Bicja said it will take two construction seasons to do all the work. The total cost of the recommended repairs hasn't been established yet, but the state of New Hampshire recently received a $12 million federal Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant. The state had applied for a $20 million grant.

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According to the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, 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.

Lyford wrote that the rehab costs will come from a combination of federal highway funds and matches from both New Hampshire and Vermont.

The project will replace the existing twin truss bridges on Route 119 with an 1,800-foot, continuous span about 300 feet south of the current bridges.

Because New Hampshire owns the Connecticut River, it bears the majority of the cost at 83 percent. Vermont will pay the remaining 17 percent. New Hampshire plans to bond its remaining portion and expects it will pay those bonds off with anticipated highway funds from the federal government. Vermont will utilize low-interest loans and bonds to pay for its own portion.

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Also on tap for the project is new sidewalks on the New Hampshire side of Route 119, and sidewalks to George's Field, where Runnings, a home, farm and outdoor store, Riverside Food, Brews & Wine and GameStop are located.

Deborah George, who owns George's Field, told the subcommittee she has another tenant on tap for the location, but wasn't at liberty to disclose the name at this time.

Steve Diorio, chairman of the Hinsdale Board of Selectmen expressed concern over parking availability for people who want to walk across the bridge, spend time on The Island, which is in the middle of the river, or put a kayak or canoe in the river.

But George noted that she is open to allowing people to park at George's Field for those purposes.

New Hampshire is set to put the project out to bid in August or September, Lyford said during a previous meeting of the subcommittee. The start date had been delayed due to acquiring rights of way on both sides of the river.

Bob Audette can be contacted at raudette@reformer.com.


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