An Information Meeting on the status of the closed Station Road Bridge held by the Town drew more than 80 people to the Fort River Elementary School cafeteria on Tuesday night.
The bridge was closed on September 20th after inspections by the Town Engineer and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation bridge inspection team determined it was unsafe for vehicular travel.
Select Board Chair Douglas Slaughter moderated the meeting. Town Manager Paul Bockelman, Superintendent of Public Works Guilford Mooring, and Assistant Town Manager David Ziomek shared information on the status of the bridge and its repair.
The presentation addressed:
- What happened? Why is the bridge closed?
- What has the Town done since it has been closed?
- What are the options for permanent replacement?
- What are the options for a temporary bridge?
- How long will it be closed?
The Town Engineer responded to a complaint of a pothole on the bridge and found that, in addition to the pothole, there was additional corrosion of the bridge’s infrastructure. The Town consulted with the State bridge team from the State Department of Transportation and all agreed the bridge should be closed to vehicular traffic to protect public safety.
After the Town investigated options for quick repairs and replacement options, the State notified the Town that it was subject to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 85, Section 35, which lays out prescribed methods for designing and permitting bridges in the Commonwealth.
A complete list of the studies that must be conducted, designs that must be prepared, and permitting that must be accomplished is in the October 30th presentation, which is posted on the Town’s website here: www.amherstma.gov/stationrdbridge
Superintendent Mooring noted that the Town would be pursuing parallel paths: one to permit, design, and install a permanent bridge and one to permit, design and install a temporary bridge. The Town has engaged CDM/Smith as its consulting engineer to expedite the process. Initial estimates from CDM/Smith projected the bridge would be closed until August of 2020 and the cost for permitting, engineering, and constructing the bridge to be in the neighborhood of $2.6 million.
The Town is actively investigating a temporary bridge that could be installed in the Spring 2019 and stay in place until the Spring 2020, at which time the bridge would be closed again to allow construction during the summer/fall to replace the bridge permanently.
Members of the public expressed frustration with the loss of the bridge, the impact the detours had on their quality of life, and the length of time it was projected to take to replace the bridge.
A special location on the Town’s website has been setup to make it easier for the public to track the progress of this important project. That site is: www.amherstma.gov/stationrdbridge
We encourage members of the public to visit the website and review the slide show to stay up to date. The Town will also be preparing a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) sheet for the website.