MassDOT managing $6.3M Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repair project

MassDOT managing $6.3M Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repair project

Conway and Shelburne are set to benefit from a significant financial boost as the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) takes charge of the $6.3 million Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repair project. The bridge, which has been closed since August 2023, is now in the preliminary design phase. According to MassDOT spokesperson John Goggin, the project will involve deck and joint repairs, cleaning, painting, and guardrail updates. The earliest possible date for construction bids is 2027.

The MassDOT Project Review Committee approved the preservation project for Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge in October 2023. Stantec has been assigned as the consultant for the design. The scope of work includes preserving the main truss span and replacing the approach span on the Conway side. Funding for the project is expected to come from the federal government’s bridge program.

The indefinite closure of the bridge has been challenging for residents of both towns. Conway Selectboard member Chris Waldo highlighted the financial relief this project brings, noting that the town would have struggled to cover the costs, especially with ongoing repairs needed for Shelburne Falls Road due to flooding in July 2023. Both the bridge and Shelburne Falls Road are crucial routes for the community, affecting emergency services, school bus routes, and daily convenience for residents.

The financial relief is significant, given that the bridge repair costs are nearly equivalent to Conway’s entire fiscal year 2025 budget, which stands at $7 million. Despite the projected 2027 bid date, Waldo remains optimistic that the project will progress more quickly. He cited MassDOT’s efficiency in setting up a temporary bridge on North Poland Road and repairing flood damage on Route 116 last year as reasons for his optimism.

Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, with its 198-foot span hanging 40 feet above the Deerfield River, was originally built in 1882. It underwent its last major rehabilitation in 1995, although it was briefly closed in 1997 due to damage from a truck. The bridge’s deck has been replaced in the past, but few other major alterations have been made since its construction.

The bridge’s closure impacts not only Conway and Shelburne Falls but also Buckland. Waldo expressed hope that the repair timeline would be shorter than the projected four years. The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and is one of fewer than 50 bridges of its truss type remaining in the United States, and one of only 10 in Massachusetts.

The MassDOT’s involvement in the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repair project is a significant development for the towns of Conway and Shelburne. The financial burden of the $6.3 million repair project would have been a considerable challenge for the towns to manage independently. The bridge’s closure has already caused disruptions, and the repair project’s progress will be closely watched by the affected communities.

The bridge’s historical significance adds another layer of importance to the project. Its inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places underscores the need for careful preservation and restoration. The bridge’s unique truss design is a rare example of 19th-century engineering, and its preservation is crucial for maintaining the region’s historical heritage.

As the project moves forward, the communities of Conway and Shelburne will be looking to MassDOT for timely updates and progress reports. The bridge’s repair is not just a matter of infrastructure but also a vital link for the daily lives of residents. The financial relief provided by MassDOT’s involvement is a welcome development, and the towns will be hoping for a swift and efficient repair process.

The Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repair project is a significant undertaking that highlights the importance of infrastructure maintenance and preservation. The involvement of MassDOT and the expected federal funding are crucial elements in ensuring the project’s success. As the preliminary design phase progresses, the communities affected by the bridge’s closure will be eagerly awaiting the start of construction and the eventual reopening of this vital transportation link.

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