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Bradford Bridge Work Could Be Hassle

Bradford, Vt. — Residents and small business owners are fretting over an upcoming bridge project on Route 25B that could close off a popular shortcut linking the town to Route 25 for two months. The state has said it will not build a temporary bridge to serve traffic during reconstruction.

The bridge, which is 80 years old, spans the Waits River and carries traffic on an artery that many motorist use as a bypass to get from downtown to the Exit 16 interchange on Interstate 91.

A bridge closing would force all traffic to use routes 25 and 5 instead during the eight-week project, tripling the length of what is normally a one-mile trek.

The Vermont Agency of Transportation estimates that construction of the project, which could range from $2.8 to $3.4 million in cost depending on which option is chosen, is still three to five years off.

Just east of the Route 25B bridge is PTO’s Repair, which offers auto repair and towing services. Owner Paul Ordway said on Monday that he has noticed the bridge’s deterioration in recent years. It’s gotten so bad, he said, he won’t drive a tow truck across it if there is oncoming traffic.

When he crosses the bridge, he gets a little nervous.

“I just don’t stop,” Ordway said.

Ordway also said he avoids driving his tow truck near the edges of the road, where crumbling concrete is visible .

He also pointed out that drainage holes in the side of the bridge have eroded and grown so wide that he worries a child or an animal walking across the bridge could fall through.

Ordway said the impact of closing the bridge on his business would be “huge,” as it would not only affect customers, but also delivery and tow truck routes.

“Everything comes from (Route 25) because the trucks can’t make the sharp turn (off Route 5 onto Route 25B),” Ordway said.

Traffic data for Route 25B project 1,400 daily trips on the road for the year 2016.

Nicole Emerson, who owns the South End Market whole foods store with her husband, also worried about the impact on her business.

She said deliveries on the market also come from Route 25, and many of her customers from the Corinth and Topsham area use that route.

“It will definitely have an effect on my business, because people want convenience, you know?” Emerson said. “That’s too bad. It’s concerning.”

According to a 2011 inspection report from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the bridge is structurally deficient with a poor deck rating and “is in need of extensive rehab or replacement in the near future.”

The state agency is recommending a detour as opposed to erecting a temporary bridge for the duration of the eight-week project, citing economic and logistical reasons. A report on the bridge project explained that the state opts for closures instead of temporary bridges “where rapid reconstruction or rehabilitation is feasible.”

“In addition to saving money, the intention is to minimize the closure period with faster construction techniques and incentives to contractors to complete projects sooner,” the report stated.

Ordway said state officials should consider the impact the bridge closing would have on area businesses when deciding whether to install a temporary span.

“We’re going to lose out while they close the bridge,” he said.

Marie Walsh, a Bradford resident of 40 years, was taken aback when she heard about the pending bridge closing as she was walking along Route 25B on Monday.

“You’re kidding,” Walsh said.

Walsh said she was worried that the closing would divert traffic to other bridges in town that she felt were also in bad shape. She also took issue with the projected cost.

“That’s a lot of money for that little bridge,” Walsh said. “ ... It just seems crazy. I mean, they just repaved the road.”

The Vermont Agency of Transportation will hold a public meeting on Nov. 12 at 6:30 p.m. in the Bradford Academy auditorium to present the options for bridge construction and solicit public feedback.

Ben Conarck can be reached at bconarck@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.