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Selectboard weighs options for Arch Bridge

NEWFANE—As Newfane decides on the new design of the Arch Bridge replacement, the Selectboard continues to conduct research to inform themselves and the public, and figure out how to keep the public engaged.

Selectboard member Rosalind Fritz reached out to Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) project manager Jennifer Fitch, who presented to the board at their May 18 meeting.

Fritz learned the engineer assigned to the project, AOT Traffic Safety Engineer Mario DuPigny-Giroux, is available to visit the Selectboard to discuss the Arch Bridge.

She also learned the town may have safer options for a one-lane bridge, including installing a blinking light that alerts cars on one side of the bridge when cars are crossing from the opposite side.

“Then you wait,” Fritz said.

She also noted the AOT confirmed more stop signs could be installed to control traffic approaching the bridge.

Although AOT representatives characterized a one-lane bridge as an unsafe option for the Arch Bridge replacement, Fritz did not believe research supported that.

She examined accident records, and found “one accident on that bridge since 1997,” and it was when “someone ran into the back of another person’s car.”

“One accident on this so-called narrow bridge,” she told the Selectboard and audience members at the June 1 board meeting.

Fritz requested that this piece of information she found be entered into the public record: “The difference between a one- and two-lane bridge is eight feet,” she said.

Selectboard Chair and Road Foreman Todd Lawley thought that good lines on the bridge marking lanes and shoulders would add to the safety of the bridge.

Fritz recommended a site visit with some sort of live mock-up, because she did not feel the AOT’s virtual film of the proposed one-lane bridge replacement told the whole story.

“Can we see an actual visual at the bridge to see how high the railings are?” she asked the board, referring to the railings the AOT said would dangerously impede visibility of drivers waiting to cross the bridge.

Regarding the AOT’s admonition to hurry up and decide on a design, Fritz said Fitch told her the design portion of the project does not begin until September, and Fitch “would like a decision by August.”

Fritz said this gives the town time “to really hash it out.”

Board member Carol Hatcher encouraged the board to keep the Arch Bridge item on the agenda until a decision is made, and invited public comment. She noted the AOT has “tons” of information about this project, and she wants the town to put it on its official website “so everyone can look at it.”

She, the other board members, Town Clerk Gloria Cristelli, and Administrative Assistant Shannon Meckle discussed options for educating residents on the bridge project, and engaging them in the decision-making process.

Some ideas were postcards, emails, public service announcements on Brattleboro Community Television, a list-serv, a website, and, as Hatcher said she has done, “walking up and down the streets, talking to people.”

“My main objective is, what do the townspeople think” about the Arch Bridge, Hatcher said, noting decisions the town needs to make, such as the number of lanes and modifications to the bridge. “I want to get the word out, and listen,” she said.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #309 (Wednesday, June 10, 2015). This story appeared on page B5.

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