Pulp Mill Bridge to close Jan. 2

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s historic covered Pulp Mill Bridge will close on Jan. 2 for an estimated 10 months of extensive repairs designed to make the span more structurally secure and durable.
The 192-year-old, double-laned Pulp Mill Bridge links Middlebury with Weybridge across the Otter Creek at Seymour Street. Beset with some deteriorating members and other deficiencies, the span has been on the docket for repairs for several years and has been limited to one vehicle per lane at a time. But the project schedule has been repeatedly pushed back as officials have sought to assemble a funding package, wait for completion of the Cross Street Bridge, and deal with the discovery of bat inhabitants within the span.
All of those issues have finally been resolved, to the extent that New York-based Alpine Construction will begin working on the Pulp Mill Bridge on Jan. 2, according to Mark Sargent, project manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Alpine won the bridge repair project with a bid of $1.7 million, according to Sargent. The next-lowest bid was $2.3 million, while an engineer had estimated the repair cost at $2.8 million, Sargent noted.
Much of the project money is federal and was secured  several years ago by then-U.S. Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt.
Neighbors and passersby will notice a major overhaul of the bridge, which will, of course, be closed to through traffic. The adjacent footbridge will be kept open to the extent that construction will allow, officials said.
“It’s going to be a significant rehabilitation,” Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner said.
Work, according to Sargent, will include:
•  Shoring up the structure.
•  Removing siding, interior decking and flooring, then installing new floor beams and decking.
•  Rehabbing the bridge truss-work.
•  Removing existing siding and replacing it with new siding.
•  Removing and replacing the existing roof.
•  Removing the shoring system, and repairing concrete in a pier and sinkholes.
•  Installing landscaping and approaches.
Once completed, Sargent said the bridge will more closely mirror its original, historic state and will be better able to support the heavy loads that traverse it each day. That will be accomplished, in part, by removing some of the extraneous elements that have been added to the bridge over the years, according to Sargent.
Werner said the bridge is expected to reopen in November of 2012. In the meantime, motorists are asked to detour around the bridge. Most are expected to detour to Weybridge Street and use either the Battell Bridge or new Cross Street Bridge to get across the Otter Creek.
Sargent said work on the span will continue uninterrupted through the winter.
“They prefer to work through the winter so (Alpine) won’t have to lay off workers,” Sargent said of the seasonal nature of the construction industry.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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