VTrans presents construction options for Route 11 culvert in Springfield

SPRINGFIELD, Vt. – The Springfield Selectboard meeting Monday, Feb. 11 drew a small crowd of residents for a presentation by two VTrans representatives, Nick Wark and Gary Laroche, about the culverts along Route 11. There are four culverts – three in Springfield and one in Chester – that are due to be replaced along Route 11 within the next three years. The presentation was mainly focused a culvert just past Fairground Road heading out of Springfield. The culvert, measuring at 14 by 9 feet and constructed in 1959, is now deteriorated and rusted out and so has come to the end of its design life.

VTrans has a proposed new box culvert design, precast with concrete in a controlled environment, which has a 75-year design life. Much of the first part of the VTrans presentation reiterated the information they presented a year ago to the Springfield Selectboard, but now more obstacles have arrived.

Some of the obstacles include relocating power line poles. Normally, VTrans works with the Vermont power companies to move poles effectively out of the construction zones; however, one pole in discussion includes a fiber optic cable that will cost approximately $100,000 to relocate during the construction, and another $100,000 to move it back. As for another pole near the substation, it’s a transmitter so as Nick Wark explained, they’re not going to touch it. It is further out of the way of the construction zone, but it could be an obstacle when it comes to redirecting traffic.

Another more pressing obstacle is a sewer manhole that is located very close to the existing culvert. Wark says that they are unable to work on the culvert without damaging the sewer so they will be working on it as well and moving it 10 feet away from the new culvert.

Nate Pion, a project engineer from Aldrich and Elliott Water Resource Engineers, was in the audience during the presentation. He explained that there is a constraint to working on the sewer system because they will have to maintain the existing flow through the system by doing bypass pumping.

Even though the sewer work would be reimbursable, the original plan that VTrans proposed last year was no longer the most cost effective plan, which led to the main part of their presentation.

VTrans is recommending a road closure plan through their Accelerated Bridge Program. Wark proposed that this plan was possible because of “short, viable local detours” through Springfield as well as “viable, regional truck detours.” Similar projects have taken place regionally, including most recently the deck replacement project on a bridge on Main Street in Ludlow, which took place over a span of nine days.

Whereas a phasing construction plan would have costs for installing a temporary bridge, redirecting traffic, erecting a retaining wall, etc., a closure plan would give the construction crews more space to work and incentivize them to get the work done early or on time. Act 153, which was passed in 2012, also incentivizes closure plans by reducing the local share of the costs to 5 percent rather than the standard local share of 10 percent for a phasing project.

While the sewer project was not included in the estimates given to the Selectboard for both closure and phasing options, Pion says that preliminary estimates for the sewer project would be $125,000. However, with a closure plan, the sewer project could work parallel to the culvert construction and there could be some possible cost reductions because the process would be more efficient.

Because the culvert exists on a town road and not a state one, the town has full control of whether or not to move forward with a closure plan, but Wark summed up that “it’s a matter of pulling of the band aid.” It would be the difference between “two weeks of a lot of activity” or “six months of a little activity.”

If the town were to go forward with a closure plan, Wark explained, the town could set the date for the closure that best suits them. While the project would take place in the summer, some time between July 1 and Aug. 12 so not to interfere with the school year, the closure would not affect access to Riverside Middle School parking lot or Fairground Road. Local detours around the closure would not have signs, but there would be access around the construction near the hospital and on other neighborhood roads.

Truck detours would have signs posted. Truck traffic that normally passes through Chester to Springfield may have to detour via Interstate-91, but it would be manageable for the time of the closure.

If the Springfield Selectboard decides to move forward with the closure option, VTrans and the town would work toward a written agreement to move forward with the next step. For the time being, the project is still is the planning stages, and actual construction is not set until the summer of 2021.

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