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Repairs to Piermont-Bradford Bridge Raise Concerns



Valley News Staff Writer
Monday, November 14, 2016

Piermont — The bridge connecting Piermont and Bradford could be closed for nearly three weeks next year as transportation officials look to repair the span that links the two communities. Some businesses in the vicinity are worried that the lull in cross-border traffic could hurt their profits, especially if it comes during times when they’re most in need of customers.

“If it’s the month of May for 19 days, that would pretty much kill my retail here as far as Vermont is concerned,” said Abby Metcalf, who owns Plant Pantry on Route 25 in Piermont.

She opens the business’ greenhouse in May and stays on through December, selling vegetables, pumpkins and wreaths to customers from both sides of the Connecticut River. The spring months of May and June are busiest for traffic, though.

“Basically you just washed yourself of the entire state of Vermont,” Metcalf said.

The New Hampshire Department of Transportation is hoping it can ease at least some of those concerns.

The agency will hold a public information meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 22, where officials are hoping to hear suggestions for when closing the bridge could disrupt residents the least.

“We’re hoping to resurface it sometime next year and it won’t be in the winter,” said DOT engineer David Scott.

That leaves spring, summer or early fall of 2017 as possibilities for construction.

Driving over the bridge, it’s easy to see the road is in need of repair, Scott said. It’s deck is made of a steel grid filled in and topped off with concrete, which is now riddled with potholes and shows exposed steel.

“So we are going to go in and take off what’s there for riding surface and resurface the entire thing,” Scott said.

Construction will also replace an expansion joint on the New Hampshire end of the bridge. Work would initially allow for one-way traffic for roughly six weeks, followed by 19 days where the bridge will be closed entirely.

Scott said that would send roughly 2,700 daily drivers on either a 17.5 mile round trip north to the Haverhill-Newbury crossing, or south about 14 miles round trip to the bridge that connects Fairlee with Orford.

It’s not the first time Bradford and Piermont would be cut off from one another. In 1927, two violent storms caused massive flooding that destroyed an earlier bridge connecting the two towns.

As a response, the current bridge was erected over the river in 1928, according to the National Register of Historic Places filing for the Piermont Bridge.

Built by Boston Bridge Works, it’s one of three Pennsylvania truss bridges crossing the Connecticut River, a distinction that helped earn it a place in the National Register in 2001.

Pennsylvania trusses were designed by engineers of the Pennsylvania Railroad and meant to withhold long spans and heavy loads.

The Piermont-Bradford connection was cut off again in 1993, when the bridge was renovated. The deck, floor beams, railings were all replaced as the bridge was upgraded to carry utilities and hold more weight.

The construction then took almost four years to complete.

“(Nineteen days is) better than the last time they worked on it,” said Carol Metayer, president of Farm-Way in Bradford.

“It’s a mile from here so yeah, we’ll definitely see some traffic decrease from here, but I’m glad it’s only 19 days,” she said.

While Metayer never wants to see access to her business closed off, she admitted the bridge is in need of work. Trips to the Woodsville Guaranty Savings Bank across the bridge will be more burdensome, but not terrible, she added.

At the Four Corners General Store in Piermont, owner Katherine Gaudette said she expects her business to take a hit. Road work near the bridge this August lasted less than a week but still caused confusion and drove down business, she said.

“It pretty much limits people coming over here,” Gaudette said. “Like Farm-Way themselves, a lot of their employees come over to our business for lunch.”

Some of the people visiting the General Store on Sunday said the bridge closure would be a hassle, but is also needed.

“(Drivers have) got to go out of their way a little bit but the bridge has got to be fixed,” said Orford resident Bill Nichols, who also owns land in Piermont. “The bridges have got to be fixed, the roads have got to be fixed (and) we all deal with it.”

The bridge forum will be held as part of the Piermont Selectboard meeting at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22 at the Old Church Building on Route 10.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.