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Big repairs loom for bridges in Bridport

BRIDPORT — Bridport now can rightfully lay claim to the nickname of “Bridgeport.”
That’s because the community is confronting repairs to no less than four of its local bridges, beginning this March with the Sunderland Bridge on Crown Point Road.
Bridport residents on Town Meeting Day will be asked to spend up to $325,000 in town surplus funds to repair the 52-foot-long Sunderland Bridge, which straddles the western branch of Dead Creek on Crown Point Road, near its intersection with Basin Harbor Road.
Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) inspectors flagged the 77-year-old span back in 2010 as having a “completely saturated,” deck that needed to be replaced “in the near future.”
Bridport selectboard Chairman Leonard Barrett put the bridge’s main problem into layman’s terms: “Moisture and salt have been slowly making their way through the concrete and asphalt (of the deck).”
In technical terms, a follow-up VTrans inspection this past July identified the bridge as being in “satisfactory condition,” but with “progressive deterioration along the deck and steel beam ends.”
The report recommended “general rehabilitation” for the bridge deck, including “membrane installation, along with deck drain elimination and or perhaps fascia reconstruction. The beams need at least partial cleaning, and painting now. If not, the steel will need strengthening repairs within the next 10 years to supplement section loss at the beam ends. For instance, a shallow rust hole is now forming thru the west end of the southern exterior beam.”
It is a town-owned bridge, and therefore the community’s responsibility to maintain. That means Bridport will have to foot the bill for the deck replacement project — unless it can win a grant through VTrans’ Structures Program. Officials are seeking $175,000 through that program to minimize Bridport’s expense.
Fortunately, because the town has accumulated a budget surplus local taxpayers won’t need to float a bond or loan to do the Sunderland Bridge work. But Barrett noted it is in the town’s best interest to retain as much of its surplus as possible due to the three other bridges in town that will soon need major repairs.
Those bridges are on Middle Road, Crown Point Road (Potash Bridge) and West Market Road, according to Barrett.
He said because Bridport won’t have enough surplus money to repair all those bridges state aid will be essential.
Asked how soon the Bridport bridges will need to be repaired, Barrett said, “As soon as we can get to them.”
For now, though, the town focus is on the Sunderland Bridge, which sits on a well-traveled road. State officials estimate the deck replacement will take around a month, during which through traffic must cease. That means travelers will have to detour around the bridge using a combination of Basin Harbor Road, Heitman Road, Liberty Lane and/or Middle Road.
The project will result in the bridge being widened from the current 19.7 feet to 25 feet, 6 inches, according to current construction plans.
Barrett said the town was originally given five years to replace the Sunderland Bridge deck. It’s now year four of that deadline, and Bridport has failed twice to secure a VTrans grant for the work, Barrett said.
Bridport could reapply for a state grant is it fails again this year, but Barrett is optimistic VTrans will award Bridport the grant this year and the town will not have to cut it close by reapplying in 2018.
“I hope the state comes through with the grant for us,” Barrett said. “I think we’re in good shape.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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