BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation bridge design chief, David Scott, spoke to the Rockingham Selectboard about the proposal for the preservation of the Arch Bridge 42277. The Arch Bridge connects North Walpole through Church Street to Bellows Falls over the Connecticut River. The purpose of the project is to extend the life of the bridge, which is approaching 40 years and is due for preservation wand maintenance work.
Scott was joined by Jason Tremblay, NHDOT senior project engineer; Jonathan Griffin, project manager from the Vermont Agency of Transportation; and Stantec consultants George Bogue and Israel Maynard. Scott outlined the proposal beginning in the summer of 2020 with bids. Scott read a letter from the Bureau of Environment with NHDOT’s intent to limit impacts on the surrounding environment and historical and archeological resources in the vicinity.
The Arch Bridge was found worthy of preservation due to its size and design. The project scope is preservation, which will include replacing deteriorated expansion joints and the membrane, deck patching, and removal of light poles. Pedestrian access will be maintained throughout three phases of construction scheduled for April through September 2021 with completion in October 2021. Tremblay asked the Selectboard for input on a truck detour, eliminating tractor trailer traffic. The detour from the north would be about 20 miles with signs on Interstate 91 guiding trucks to Exit 7 through Charlestown, N.H.
Stefan Golec asked about the lighting on the bridge, and if there were plans to increase it, adding, “There is a high amount of walking traffic over the bridge.”
Tremblay said that in 2012, a NHDOT Discontinuance Memo shut the lights off on the bridge and part of this proposed plan was to remove the poles. He added, if the towns of Bellows Falls and North Walpole were interested in maintaining power, the lights could stay.
Peter Golec wondered about the truck detour from the south with the height restrictions for 123 Bridge at Exit 5. He commented that companies south of the village would have issues getting to North Walpole. He added that shutting off lights on the bridge was a poor choice on the state’s end.
Gaetano Putignano suggested the communities of North Walpole and Bellows Falls needed to have a discussion now, since NHDOT planned to remove the light poles. He asked if there would be temporary traffic controls in Vermont to eliminate any added confusion during construction, and Maynard answered it would remain a three-way stop.
Putignano asked what size truck would be allowed, and Maynard explained commercial trucks would be excluded. Putignano wondered if the businesses most affected would be notified of the detour. Golec and Putignano mentioned Cold River Materials in North Walpole specifically, who services many businesses including the town of Rockingham.
Everett Hammond, director of Public Works, agreed the detour would impact the town and contractors. “It would be a significant hit for the whole area.” He inquired if special permits could be available.
The Selectboard agreed ample signs should direct trucks south to Exit 7 and from Keene to Route 9 in Brattleboro and North I-91 to Bellows Falls.
Peter Golec explained to the engineers that there would be no traffic concerns, “If Vilas Bridge was a viable option.”
For more information on the presentation, go to www.nh.gov/dot/projects/walpolerockingham42277.