Town may get funding for River Road bridge repair

NEWFANE — The legal load limit of Bridge 38 on River Road was recently reduced from 16,000 pounds to 8,000 pounds.

This is the second change in less than five months. Last November, Vermont Agency of Transportation officials told the town they were lowering the weight limit after finding deteriorated I-beams during a routine inspection.

Initial estimates for replacing the steel support trusses are between $125,000 and $200,000, according to AOT District 2 Project Manager Marc Pickering, but he said the town may only have to foot 10 percent of the cost.

The AOT's structures grant helps towns keep their bridges and roads in working order by reimbursing municipalities up to $175,000 for repairs, minus the town's 10 percent contribution.

Because of the critical nature of the bridge's condition, Pickering said it's likely Bridge 38 will go to the top of the list of projects in need of grant funding.

Pickering visited the Selectboard at their regular Feb. 6 meeting to talk about the weight change and discuss options.

The inspectors found “pretty severe corrosion [on the beams] and they need some attention,” Pickering said, but the rest of the bridge is in fine shape.

“The abutments are good,” as is the wood deck on the 83-foot span, Pickering said. He suggested contractors use a crane to lift up the deck, replace the I-beams, then lay the deck back down.

Another option, Pickering said, is to do away with the wood deck and lay a concrete deck on top of the new I-beams. This change would cost more up front, but could increase the life of the deck from 15 years for wood to 100 for concrete.

If the contractor uses pre-molded concrete deck pieces, the project may only require closing the bridge for about a week, he noted.

While the Selectboard issues requests for proposals and waits on bids, the immediate concern was to choose one of two options offered by the AOT: reduce the load limit, or narrow the travel lane across the bridge to center the weight of vehicles crossing the span.

The Selectboard opted for reducing the load limit, and Selectboard Chair - and Roads Foreman - Todd Lawley said he had already ordered new signs indicating the 4-ton limit.

“As soon as they come in, we'll post it,” Lawley said. Pickering reminded him he also must record the change with the Division of Motor Vehicles, which will make the weight limit enforceable.

The new limit means no dump trucks, school buses, or oil trucks, said Pickering, who suggested town officials notify nearby residents and businesses.

Lawley said his major concern was with emergency vehicles needing to access homes on the south side of the bridge. The detour, he said, is 4 miles.

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