Walker Bridge and Branch Brook Bridge work to start May 1
By Stephen Seitz
LUDLOW—Hoping for the smoothest possible project, officials from the Vermont Agency of Transportation outlined their plans for replacing the Walker Bridge, which is the gateway to downtown Ludlow, at a public forum Thursday, April 20.
At about the same time, a smaller bridge over Branch Brook will also be rehabilitated.
“Route 103 is a major west route between I-91 and U.S. [Route] 7, located in the heart of downtown Ludlow,” Michael Chenette, the assistant project manager, told the sparse crowd at the forum. “It serves as a major truck route between the east and west sides of Vermont.”
The Walker Bridge, or Bridge 25, was constructed in 1928. It is 86 feet long with two 43-foot spans. From curb to curb it’s 23.8 feet, with two 5-foot wide sidewalks.
“It’s in poor condition, with visible deterioration on the deck,” Chenette said. “It’s definitely time to replace. The bridge will be completely replaced.”
The next bridge, he said, will be larger and safer.
“The bridge will be 8 feet wider than it is now,” Chenette said, “which will allow for significantly larger shoulders, which will be a lifesaver. It’ll be about 10 feet wider on each side. It’s going to have a conventional cast- in-place deck. Some of those components will be built off-site. Construction of the new bridge has actually already started, but it won’t be brought to the site until later on.”
Chenette said there would be two weeks of prep work before the bridge is actually closed on June 10. Starting on May 27, the agency will be installing traffic control signs and message boards, controlling erosion, and preparing the access and staging areas. The bridge will have alternating one-way traffic during daytime. The working day during this period will include weekends, and 10-12 hours during daylight.
Once the bridge is closed, contractor Cold River Bridges will remove existing the bridge. They will drive steel piles for abutments, set steel girders, and form and pour the concrete deck. They will also attend to drainage, waterline, sidewalks and light poles, and cleanup.
There are plans during the closure to have 24-hour work cycles, which prompted one man in the audience to ask if that included the pile drivers.
Cold River Bridges spokesman Jim Hollar said that would not be a problem.
“It’ll be from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” he said. “But they’re not going that deep. It’ll probably be two days on one side, and two days on the other. It’s not like we’re driving them to China.”
Traffic will be detoured around the project. Chenette said truck traffic would be diverted from Route 103 in Chester to Route 11 to Londonderry, where trucks will be able to take Route 100 into Ludlow. The detour adds 17.7 miles to the truck trip, Chenette said.
“We’ll be reaching out to trucking companies and bus companies to let them know what’s happening,” he said. “Hopefully, they can seek out the best routes for them, depending on where they’re coming from.”
Local traffic will be diverted to High Street from Gleascott Avenue to North Depot Street back to Main Street, making the trip .02 miles longer.
“Elm Street will be blocked off at one end, and going over to Gleascott Avenue,” Chenette said. “That’s going to become one-way, with some temporary parking. Some of the parking in the area will be taken away, so we’re going to try to accommodate some of that.”
“Have you given any consideration to signage?” asked one resident. “There’s a 90 degree turn onto Route 100 in Ludlow. We’ve had a couple of vehicles lose brakes coming into that, and is there any signage to indicate sharp turns ahead?”
“We can look at the sign package,” Chenette replied. “We can check on that and talk about doing something.”
Resident Sharon Bixby suggested, “We should change the timing on the Depot Street stoplight so people won’t have to wait for long periods.”
Once the bridge is in place, alternating traffic returns to the area as permanent traffic signs and the bridge railing are installed, and the lanes need to be striped. Chenette said this would take about two weeks.
The Branch Brook project won’t be nearly as elaborate or take as long to complete, according to VTrans project manager Todd Sumner.
“The goal is to have that bridge open for traffic before Memorial Day weekend,” he said.
Built in 1966, the Branch Brook bridge is a single span concrete deck on steel beams.
“The deck is in poor condition,” Sumner said, “but the steel beams and abutments are in good condition.”
The plan is to replace the deck using the existing beams and abutments. The new bridge will be an 82-foot single span.
Construction begins May 1. On May 15, the bridge will close for 10 days. Detours for all vehicles will be to Route 100, U.S. 4, U.S. 7, and Vermont Route 103, or 53.5 miles.
There will be weekly updates on the project. Those interested may sign up for e-mail alerts at https://southcentralvtbridges.vtransprojects.vermont.gov/bridge_projects/ludlow.