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Salisbury to consider bond for new bridge in village

SALISBURY — Salisbury residents are being asked to gather at a special meeting on Tuesday, July 15, to hear details about a plan to replace the deteriorating Maple Street bridge in the village.
That project is tentatively estimated at $850,000, of which $625,000 would be sought through a bond issue to be floated to Salisbury voters this November.
Also known as “Bridge No. 4,” the span is a half-mile north of the intersection of Maple Street and West Shore Road. It was built in 1919, is 23 feet long and 26 feet wide, and has a posted weight limit of 10 tons. The bridge spans the Leicester River and handles about 270 vehicles per day, according to state traffic counts. It has far exceeded its 80-year life expectancy.
While the bridge is listed in “fair” condition by state inspectors, local officials and consultants from Middlebury’s Phelps Engineering have noted worrisome signs of disrepair, including:
•Significant deterioration and scour to the bridge abutment and stem wall.
· Deteriorating concrete “T” beams.
· Cracked and stained concrete decking.
Phelps Engineering officials completed a major review of the Maple Street Bridge this past January that listed four possible options to address the bridge’s problems. They included doing nothing, making some basic repairs, or choosing from a pair of replacement scenarios.
A recent Vermont Agency of Transportation inspection report identified the Maple Street Bridge as “needing refurbishment in the near future,” according to an informational flier drafted by Phelps Engineering that will soon be sent to local voters.
The January Phelps study placed the costs of refurbishing the bridge at around $336,000, work that would include repairs to the deck, concrete T-beam and abutment, plus replacement of the northeast wing-wall and some guardrail.
“Refurbishment would be costly and does not provide a good value to the town as calculated in a life-cycle analysis,” reads a section of the draft flier.
Phelps suggested that Salisbury would get better value and more project longevity by placing a new, pre-cast concrete span in place of the old one. Brandon Streicher, manager of construction services for Phelps, said replacing the Maple Street Bridge would cost around $800,000. And Salisbury has access to some funds that would help draw down the price for local property taxpayers, he noted.
First, Salisbury has received a VTrans “structures grant” for up to $175,000 to apply toward the project. And second, Green Mountain Power officials have verbally committed to $50,000 in assistance, owing to the fact that GMP owns and maintains an existing 36-inch diameter steel penstock used for hydro-electric power that passes through the southern bridge abutment.
That penstock is also deteriorating, and GMP has agreed to pay for all costs related to the penstock replacement within the project area in an effort to combine the two tasks and reduce cost.
Salisbury Selectman Jonathan Blake said he and a majority of his colleagues believe it would be wise to replace the Maple Street Bridge sooner, rather than later.
“If we do nothing we might be able to squeak another 10 years out of it,” Blake said.
But he added the availability of the state and GMP money makes new construction a more logical buy at this point in time given cost trends in the building sector.
“The cost of replacing it isn’t going to get any lower,” Blake said.
Of course the decision to replace the bridge will rest in the hands of Salisbury voters. If residents approve a $625,000 bond this November, it would raise the municipal tax rate by just over a penny (0.011 cents per $100 in property value). That would translate into an additional $22 on the annual property tax bill of the owner of a homestead valued at $200,000, according to information provided by Phelps Engineering.
Salisbury Selectboard Chairman Ben Fuller echoed Blake’s sentiments about doing the bridge replacement sooner, rather than later.
“This might be a prudent time to get ahead of the problem,” he said.
Assuming  a positive bond vote, engineering design and permitting will take place during the winter of 2014 and spring of 2015, with construction during the summer and fall of 2015, according to Phelps Engineering.
Since the Maple Street Bridge is located on a Class 2 town highway, the selectboard would determine an official detour. Phelps is recommending a 2.9-mile detour route that would divert traffic from Smead Road, along Maple Street to West Salisbury Road, to Vermont Route 7, and back to Maple Street.
“If the townspeople support our decision to replace the bridge, we will go for it,” Blake said. “We don’t really have a plan B at this point.”
The July 15 meeting will begin at 7 p.m. and will take place at the Salisbury Elementary School.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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