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Selectboard approves bridge plans for Sunset Lake Road

BRATTLEBORO—The Selectboard approved plans for rehabilitation of the Sunset Lake Road bridge on Nov. 15.

The plans include constructing the bridge using a precast concrete slab formed at a warehouse, driven to the site, and lowered into place. Engineers will build a temporary bridge open to one-way traffic.

Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, Inc. (VHB) is the engineering consulting firm contracted by the Vermont Agency of Transportation to assist with the permitting, design, and construction bidding for the bridge’s reconstruction. The firm was represented at the meeting by Scott Burbank, project manager.

Selectboard Vice-Chair Christopher Chapman followed up on concerns of residents by asking about options for improving the bridge’s aesthetics rather than having only a blank concrete slab.

Abutters have asked about using a technique like drystone, added Selectboard Clerk Dora Bouboulis.

Burbank said drystone was not a recommended construction technique.

Instead, he said, the town could request the use of “form liners” to cast the look of stone into concrete. But, Burbank cautioned, the state would not pay and the process that could tack an extra $50,000 to $100,000 onto the project’s bottom line.

The state would not pay, he said, because it had labeled the bridge as “non-historic.”

“$50,000 is too much,” said Chapman, who asked Burbank to look into a way to “give it something other than a bland face.”

Bouboulis said that from the “point of view of process,” it would help the board for the company to present a cost comparison for drystone versus cement when VHB returns.

Doing so would give people the sense their requests were assessed, she said.

Burbank responded that drystone was “not practical.” He estimated a gap of $150,000 between cement and drystone. The state would not pay for the drystone, he said.

Selectboard Member David Gartenstein thanked Bouboulis for inquiring into residents’ concerns, but added that spending that much money to make cement look like stone was too much.

The “pressing need” was for a cost-effective bridge to carry traffic, he said.

‘Not the first time’

Bouboulis also responded to a conversation at the Nov. 1 board meeting where DeGray said he would “acquiesce” to her request to postpone voting on the bridge because the board had not “warned” the vote on the agenda.

In Bouboulis’s view, the Sunset Lake Bridge was “not the first time someone connected to VTrans” came to a meeting for “a presentation” and then pressured the board to take a vote.

Bouboulis said she felt “frustrated” that people acted like she “forced” them into not voting.

Burbank had urged the Selectboard to vote on a rehabilitation plan for the bridge at the meeting. Gartenstein withdrew his motion, however, after Bouboulis raised concerns about taking a vote during a public hearing.

In total, VHB explored three bridge construction alternatives for the Sunset Lake Bridge project, all with an approximate $ 1million price tag and an expected 50-to-75-year lifespan.

Burbank told the board at its previous meeting that the precast slab construction would allow for a quick rebuild.

At that same meeting, Town Manager Barbara Sondag explained that the bridge had topped the state’s “worst-of-the-worst list.”

According to Sondag, the federal government pledged to cover 80 percent of the repair costs and the state 10 percent.

The Town Meeting members approved funding for the town’s required 10-percent match at the March Representative Town Meeting.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #128 (Wednesday, November 23, 2011).

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