State to replace River Road bridge

NEW HAVEN — New Haven residents will have a chance to weigh in on the upcoming Nash Bridge replacement project, which will overhaul the present bridge on River Road that crosses the New Haven River near Halpin Road.
On April 12 at 7 p.m. at the New Haven Town Hall, the town selectboard — in conjunction with the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) and the Addison County Regional Planning Commission (ACRPC) — will hold a “local concerns meeting” to gather input about the bridge project from municipal officials, regulatory personnel and the general public. This meeting will give community members an opportunity to provide information and express concerns about the project — such as road closures, funding and detours — before plans are finalized
“The goal of this project is to address the structural deficiencies, using innovative techniques and methods, accomplishing the work in a timely, cost-effective and efficient manner,” wrote VTrans Structures Program Manager Michael Hedges in a July, 2010, letter to the New Haven selectboard.
ACRPC Transportation Planner Rick Kehne is relieved to see this project move to the top of the VTrans Capital Program priority list for construction funding.
“Aside from its condition, it’s a very unsafe bridge,” said Kehne, who will be advising the project on a local level. “The bridge is very narrow and it has poor visibility … it’s very, very dangerous. Its condition is also in bad shape.”
River Road is a frequently traveled throughway in Addison County that connects Routes 7 and 116.  Although a traffic study hasn’t been conducted in over six years, there is a consensus among community members and municipal workers that it is a well-traveled road.
“River Road is a main corridor in Addison County feeding into Middlebury and there’s a lot of traffic,” said Kehne.
Nevertheless, project planners have not ruled out the possibility of closing the river crossing during construction without providing a temporary span.
“As an option for consideration, the ability to close the bridge to traffic, vehicular and pedestrian, with or without a detour will be evaluated,” wrote Hedges. “Although not always ideal, closure without an on-project temporary bridge during construction minimizes impacts, lessens costs, and avoids the need for certain permits and clearances, which often delay projects.”
“There’s some great advantages to that,” said Kehne. “It can speed up the project and save huge costs … it can literally knock a year off construction of a project.”
The total project cost has not yet been set. The New Haven selectboard has signed a “finance and maintenance agreement,” and awaits its return from the state. The town has pledged to fund 10 percent of the project’s total costs. According to Kehne, the state will typically pay 10 percent of the costs and the remaining 80 percent will come from federal funds.
VTrans is employing consultants Aaron P. Guyette of Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. as a project manager and the engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff to provide design-engineering services. ACRPC will aid the project on the local level.
“We help facilitate the project as it develops,” added Kehne.
Reporter Andrew Stein can be reached at [email protected].

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