Rockingham Selectboard discuss designs for Depot Street Bridge

ROCKINGHAM, Vt. – On Wednesday, May 5, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed updates on the Depot Street Bridge. Scott Burbank, project manager for Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, and Jon Griffin, project manager for Vermont Agency of Transportation, presented the costs of the four designs. Burbank explained each: the off-alignment steel bridge involving rehabilitation or removal of the Depot Street Bridge and the on-alignment replacement concrete arch or prefabricated steel truss.

The cost comparisons included conservative estimates of scarcity events with one 3-hour event estimated per month over the duration of construction. Burbank said the off-alignment steel bridge running parallel to the railroad bridge would accommodate a WB-67 tractor-trailer with sleeper cab. To repair the existing bridge, a three-month canal shutdown was anticipated with the town paying water and sewer and all future inspections and maintenance. The project cost range was estimated at $1.25-1.38 million.

Burbank described the off-alignment bridge with removal of the existing bridge had an anticipated one-month canal shutdown involving no future maintenance and eligible water and sewer costs. Design was estimated at $853,000-$891,000.

Burbank said the concrete arch replacement involved removal of the existing bridge and an anticipated eight-month canal closure for cofferdams, demolition, and bridge construction. He noted that the bridge was “moved closer to 90 degrees” and through a conservative program called Auto-turn, drivers could maneuver a WB-67. He said the issue was that a “tractor-trailer would overhang the sidewalk…and conflict with pedestrians.” The cost was estimated at $600,000-$700,000.

Burbank explained the prefabricated steel truss bridge would replace the existing concrete arch, involving the same turning movement for the WB-67 as the concrete arch and truck trailer would again overhang the sidewalk. He anticipated a one-month canal shutdown for removal of the bridge with water and sewer included in the project cost. This design was estimated at $265,000-$285,000.

Chair Peter Golec asked about the right of way costs that started at $75,000 with the off-alignment bridge rising with each design.

Griffin explained they were assumed costs based on property owners with potential impacts for the relocation of utilities.

Susan Hammond was concerned about leaving the existing bridge and being “responsible for it.” She said she did not “see it as possible, financially and practically.”

Bonnie North wondered how expensive it would be to maintain the bridge if it was pedestrian-only. Griffin suggested contacting the Rockingham Highway Department on maintenance costs.

Pickup’s concern was the structural integrity of the canal walls. Griffin agreed that removal of the existing bridge added potential risks. Burbank explained the steel bridge options avoided some of the impacts.

North asked if they could design a smaller bridge for pedestrians. Burbank said there were options for a 10-foot wide continental bridge, but the town would have to pay for construction.

North said she spoke to Casey Cota, president of Cota & Cota Heating Fuels, who has invested both time and money on the island. She said, he commented, “We should be making decisions and plans based on 60-100 years, not 10-20 years.”

North agreed the “cost of the off-alignment bridge is terrifying…but it’s what we need.”

Resident Ellen Howard asked if the right of way “costs included a layout for a new town road” on the off-alignment design.

Griffin said it was assumed that right of way would be no cost and explained that was the next step if the town considered the off-alignment option bridge.

Cowan asked if VTrans funded pedestrian bridges. Griffin explained there was a competitive annual grant offered for bike and pedestrian facilities.

Golec reminded the Selectboard that Griffin and Burbank would return to discuss the bridge further. Griffin explained that the design team was on hold and waiting for the town’s decision.

The Selectboard meetings are held on the first Wednesday and third Tuesday of the month at 6 p.m. in the Lower Theater of the Bellows Falls Opera House.

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