BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, June 2, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed Depot Street Bridge updates and the area wide plan.
Project managers Jon Griffin of the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Vanasse Hangen Brustlin’s Scott Burbank presented additions for the off-alignment bridge design option for Depot Street Bridge.
Burbank explained that Green Mountain Railroad wanted to maintain gate access on the west and requested an access road on the east side of the railroad bridge for this option. The town costs had also decreased on the off-alignment with pedestrian bridge option because the utilities could be supported on the pedestrian bridge, making this a participating item.
Griffin explained there would be no sidewalk on the new bridge if the town selected this option, reducing costs between $1.18–1.24 million with a project cost of $8.1 million at 10% town share plus the estimated $370,000 in clean-up costs.
Chair Peter Golec asked for clarification on who would pay for contaminants. Griffin replied that all bridge and road projects with contaminated soils were paid by the town. He explained that by balancing materials they could help manage the costs.
Susan Hammond worried about the construction compromising the canal. Griffin said there were options to mitigate concerns and would depend on the final geotechnical analysis.
Development Director Gary Fox asked if the town was responsible for the contamination cleanup costs, would they then be eligible for EPA grants? Griffin said he would verify that with the Federal Highway Adminitration. Fox explained to the board that this could be “$250,000 or $500,000 as an 80/20 match for contamination cleanup.”
Municipal Manager Scott Pickup asked about the construction schedule. Griffin said utility relocation would begin 2023 if bridge construction began in 2024 and would last a full calendar year. He said it would depend on when the town made a decision on the design option.
Golec said, “It comes down to who we inconvenience first… I’m not too keen on three bridges across the canal.”
Bonnie North asked if they were ready to vote. Golec said he still had questions and was studying the traffic. “I don’t see any big issue with truck traffic.”
Fox agreed there was less truck traffic as the last factory on the island had closed in 2014. He said the goal was to reverse that by “improving the infrastructure… make it attractive and feasible.” Fox explained the island was zoned as Industrial 14 but residential was an accessory use. He added that with more activity, traffic will increase and the turning radius was a problem. “If we keep things the way they are, then of course we [will not have] development… This is a once in 70-year opportunity to make the type of investment that will reverse that course of no investment.”
Rick Cowan suggested they have a plan for the island. Fox said they had developed an Area Wide Plan and on June 10 were holding a public meeting with the consultants on the island, “under the hill” – Mill Street and Riverfront Trail – which would be made available to those unable to attend for public input.
Bonnie North said that Windham Regional Commission was impressed by the plan and had provided funding for the consulting services. She suggested the board read the Area Wide Plan.
Hammond asked for hard numbers for the bridge options the board seemed to be considering: the off-alignment with pedestrian bridge and the steel truss on-alignment. She wanted to see, “What this means to the taxpayer over the next 10 to 30 years.”
The next Selectboard meeting is Wednesday, July 7 at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.