LUDLOW, Vt. – Walker Bridge, by the intersection of Main and Elm streets in Ludlow, will be closed to traffic from June 1, 2017 for up to 35 days.
Cold River Bridges says it will be working around-the-clock to remove the current bridge and build a new one in its place.
Traffic will be diverted during construction, sending automobile traffic up High Street, Depot Street, and Pleasant Street, and large trucks down Route 100 or around Ludlow completely. The area between the traffic light and construction site will be open to pedestrians and local traffic, but no through traffic.
Walker Bridge, originally built in the Civil War era, was named after William H. Walker, who died in 1896. Since then, the bridge has become the connection between downtown and residential Ludlow.
The contractor, Cold River Bridges, is based in Walpole, NH. In recent years, they constructed the bridge on Route 131 in Cavendish and both bridges in Chester. They’ve been given a significant incentive to finish the project in under 35 days, and a reasonably expensive penalty for finishing past the deadline.
Town Manager Frank Heald said he worries about complete disregard for detour signs if drivers choose to follow a car’s GPS device. He stated that the town will support and encourage its businesses and maintain community involvement.
At Heald’s suggestion to the Chamber of Commerce, a group was formed in December 2016 to mitigate the impact of construction on businesses, to organize and plan for a month of no traffic, and to request help from the town, once the committee has chosen a course of action.
This committee, headed by Paul Faenza, has met several times in the last couple of months to proactively include local businesses in a discussion to address the economic hardships construction may bring.
At their last meeting, they discussed ideas to attract customers, to host weekend events, and to request help from the town. Several ideas have been brought to the table, but decisions will be made at a later date.
To attract customers, ideas concerning publicity included an informational table at the Ludlow Farmers’ Market, advertisements on social media, in local newspapers, and in shops, and signage to remind traffic that businesses are still open. Incentive ideas included construction discounts/sales on certain items and specials at restaurants for construction workers at all hours of the day.
Other ideas included a walking mall, art show, and a friendly Taste of Ludlow competition, similar to the Chili Cook-off.
The goal of these events is to keep a steady flow of traffic and customers throughout the month that will support businesses while the bridge is closed.
Weekend event ideas included Friday night concerts, movies, and other events. The map of the five weekends involved with construction begins with Memorial Day weekend, right before construction, followed by an empty weekend, Graduation and Alumni weekends and another empty weekend. The entire project will be punctuated with fireworks on Sunday, July 2 on West Hill, and other July 4th celebrations.
This committee also brainstormed ideas about how the town could help. Ideas included signage to raise awareness, which would involve temporarily waiving Ludlow’s sign ordinance, purchasing and installing benches and trash cans to cater to higher pedestrian traffic, and block closure on Saturday nights to allow foot traffic in downtown Ludlow.
The committee must propose a plan to the town before it can receive supporting funds.
This committee will be meeting again at Big Eyes Bakery at 126 Main St. on Feb. 7 at 5 p.m. Contact Paul Faenza at the bakery, 228-2400, with questions or concerns regarding the committee’s involvement.
More information will become available as months pass and construction begins. Contact Heald at 802-228-2841 regarding the town’s involvement.