Joint Board meeting discusses future of Depot Street Bridge

Depot Bridge
The approximate location of the off-alignment bridge option. Photo by Betsy Thurston

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – The future of the Depot Street bridge and access to the Bellows Falls Island was discussed Tuesday, July 30 at the Joint Board meeting. Laura Stone and Todd Sumner of VTrans described the two bridge alternatives chosen by the Joint Board in November. The options were a full replacement spandrel elliptical arch to replace the current bridge, on-alignment, or a new steel bridge, off-alignment.

The on-alignment choice replaces the existing concrete arch bridge, but federal funds are contingent for a similar construction of the historical 112-foot concrete arch. The bridge was built in 1909 and is the oldest and only one of its kind, making it a number one priority of the Vermont State Historic Preservation Office, explained Stone. The replacement bridge would cost $3.5 million with a 5% share from the town, plus a worst case scenario of $140,000 for hazardous waste and contaminated soil mitigation, resulting in a cost of $350,000.

Stone said the off-alignment alternative would be a new bridge made of steel and cost $3.9 million with the town’s share of 10% for a total cost of $400,000. This price also includes a rehab of the existing bridge, adding balusters and fencing and to convert it to a pedestrian-only bridge. This did not include any possible hazardous waste costs found.

Stone mentioned through simulation, in order to make the turn for the replacement on-alignment Depot bridge, eighteen wheelers would need to drive on the sidewalk both on the bridge and on Canal Street. Kelley Tulley of Cota & Cota expressed concern for the on-alignment 90 degree turning radius. “I wouldn’t want any of my trucks going on the sidewalk.”

If the town chooses the off-alignment steel bridge, Canal Street will become a one-way street with two-way traffic merging north of the proposed bridge location. The new bridge would eliminate parking spaces and a portion of the park along the canal, but the turning radius will not be an issue for truck traffic. Golec noted that 29 to 42 parking spots would be lost while Stone and Sumner added there would be options for diagonal parking in the lot and parallel parking along Canal Street.

Approximately 30 were in attendance, and the vote showed 64% in favor of the off-alignment bridge versus 36% for on-alignment. Construction is set to begin in 2023, and VTrans will develop conceptual plans after the vote Tuesday, Aug. 6 when the Rockingham Selectboard meet at the Rockingham Meeting House at 5 p.m. with an open house at 4:30 p.m.

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