White River Junction Project to Force Detour

Bridge Street Underpass to Close Seven Months for Repairs

  • A car passes under the Bridge Street railroad bridge in White River Junction in July 2007. Work to replace the underpass will begin next month and is expected to continue until November. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

    A car passes under the Bridge Street railroad bridge in White River Junction in July 2007. Work to replace the underpass will begin next month and is expected to continue until November. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • A car passes under the Bridge Street railroad bridge in White River Junction in July 2007. Work to replace the underpass will begin next month and is expected to continue until November. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

White River Junction — Work on the Bridge Street underpass, which will begin early next month, will likely continue until the beginning of November, officials said yesterday.

At an afternoon public meeting at the Municipal Building, a panel of six town officials, contractors and engineers told residents that the $4.7 million repair project will require the underpass to close until Nov. 1, forcing the detour of pedestrians and vehicle.

“We’re going to try to be good neighbors,” said Project Engineer Ben MacKinney of Engineers Construction, Inc., adding that the workers will try to keep drilling noise to a reasonable audible volume. “Hopefully you guys will bear with us during construction.”

However, officials said, there will be four, 48-hour periods when work will go around-the-clock. Project Manager Chris Belanger, also of the Willison, Vt.-based ECI, said that all those periods are currently planned for July.

“There’s going to be a month period where work is going to be very intense,” Belanger said. “And, during that period, that’s when the bridge will actually be replaced.”

MacKinney said there will also be other occasional nighttime work during the course of the project.

During construction, pedestrians will be routed around the site and onto Joe Reed Drive, which runs parallel to Bridge Street and leads to the front entrance of the Windsor Superior Court, bisecting Railroad Row.

Vehicles will be detoured to the Route 5 bridge, which crosses the White River down the road from Bridge Street. Railroad Row will still be open to traffic coming from the north, according to Public Works Director Richard Menge. So, too, will Joe Reed Drive, as long as it’s open — freight trains from the New England Central Railroad sometimes block the roadway, which it owns.

During construction, MacKinney said, workers will be able to use switches north and south of the bridge to allow Amtrak trains to pass through the site without issue.

“In theory, the railroad traffic won’t ever be interrupted,” he said.

After completion of the work, the rail tracks will have been elevated about 6 1/2 inches, though the underpass’ vertical clearance will remain at 12 1/2 feet. The driving lanes won’t be widened, though the metal support dividing the lanes will be removed.

Though the contractual completion date of Nov. 1 calls for a drivable underpass and usable pedestrian sidewalk, Menge said, the contractors have until May 2014 to completely finish sidewalk work.

The tab for the project — which runs slightly more than $2.7 million in construction costs, Menge said, but about $4.3 million when factoring in engineering and other costs — won’t affect Hartford taxpayers in the slightest, though. Even though the town is running the project, federal and state dollars will cover the cost entirely.

As such, the biggest problems to those in the area will likely be noise and travel inconvenience. But despite those concerns, none of the 10 residents and business owners in the audience yesterday raised objection to the plan.

And in some cases, they were very much for it.

“This element ... has a big aesthetic impact on how people see White River Junction,” said David Briggs, who owns Hotel Coolidge, which is only several hundred feet from the work site.

Briggs said that he often sends out-of-towners who want to check out the area to the Main Street Museum. Those who choose to take the 1,000-foot walk between the two buildings have to venture through what he called an “unsafe, unsightly, unpleasant” underpass.

“Walking through that isn’t a very nice experience,” Briggs said.

Jon Wolper can be reached at jwolper@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.