DUMMERSTON—The partial collapse of the Tucker Reed Road bridge on Friday, May 13, caused the span to be closed, according to Town Clerk Laurie Frechette. “The north abutment of the bridge had collapsed into the brook,” she said. “We don’t know what caused it to do so."
A neighbor walking by the bridge discovered the failure of the abutment and contacted town officials.
Since then, Highway Foreman Lee Chamberlin and the Selectboard met three times and heard public comment on options for replacing the bridge, which will allow vehicles once again to travel the length of Tucker Reed Road.
A handful of neighbors attended the three meetings, mostly to express their concern with the new bridge’s appearance and whether the structure could be designed to calm traffic on the Class 3 road that runs between Middle and East-West Roads in the eastern part of Dummerston.
To address the neighbors’ concerns, Chamberlin researched three options for the replacement, which he presented at the May 25 regular Selectboard meeting.
Although all three plans cost about the same, between $180,000-$200,000, the differences mostly involved the material used for the deck surface and how long it is expected to last.
Wayne Emery — who, prior to his retirement, held Chamberlin’s position for many years — attended the May 25 meeting and offered his support for the second option, which replaces the wooden deck with one made of concrete.
The wooden deck was a critical point for both those who liked this plan and those who didn’t.
For many of the neighbors who showed up to the meeting, the wooden deck was the preferred choice because it looked more rustic.
But for Emery, who has installed a number of bridges in his career, the wooden deck was not a good choice. He said he put in the wooden deck on the Tucker Reed Road Bridge in 2002, “and I’m surprised the deck stood up this long, because usually wooden decks don’t last more than seven or eight years."
At a special Selectboard meeting May 31, the Board voted to approve Chamberlin’s second option.
The option the Board chose offers an estimated 100-year lifespan, mostly because the wooden deck will be replaced by concrete.
For this plan, the stone abutments are removed and replaced with concrete. Because they extend further into the brook, the bridge needs no wing walls. The abutments would have to sit only three feet below the stream bed, versus six feet for the other options Chamberlin presented.
The sides of the concrete deck will be stamped to look like stone. The deck contains an eight- to 12-inch deep retention sill which will hold gravel to create a smooth interval between the unpaved road and the bridge deck, Chamberlin said.
Regarding neighbors’ concerns about the appearance of the guardrails, Chamberlin said, “we all understand they have to be [Vermont Agency of Transportation] approved guardrails. It doesn’t matter if we like them or not."
He suggested installing flower boxes on the rails, “and that’s fine, it makes everything look good, and that’s what we want."
All plans must be approved by the Agency of Natural Resources and the Vermont Agency of Transportation; the latter will cover 90 percent of the cost of replacing the bridge.
At the May 25 meeting, the Board voted to hire Ron Bell to perform engineering duties for the project, despite resident Jody Normandeau’s questioning why an engineer is necessary for this project.
Chamberlin and some Board members explained that an engineer must be consulted to design the bridge. If the town doesn’t hire its own, whichever contractor is awarded the bid will have to hire one anyway.
By utilizing its own engineer, “when [the project] goes out to bid, everyone is bidding on the same project,” Board member Steve Glabach said, adding, “I think it would help speed up the process so we’re not doing this in October or November."
Glabach and his fellow Board member Hugh Worden said they were concerned that by going back and forth with residents on so many details about the small bridge, including whether to hire an engineer, the process could be held up.
Jack Manix, co-owner of Walker Farm and Elysian Hills Tree Farm — the latter of which is located off Tucker Reed Road — requested the town replace the bridge this year, noting the hardship the road closure has had on his farm workers.
Worden suggested all parties think about “what will we lose by waiting on this.” Glabach added that because “we’re getting into construction season,” many contractors will soon be booked.
Chamberlin pointed out all construction requiring work in the stream bed must be complete by mid-September or October. “We have to be out of that stream,” he said.