Bridgework on the horizon
Possible seventh-month detour for residents around Highbridge
NEW IPSWICH — Bridgework scheduled to start next year on the state-owned Highbridge Bridge will have implications for traffic in town, as the work is scheduled to close down a section of Route 124 for a period that could stretch from April to October of next year. Replacing the bridge is expected to cost the state $3.4 million.
The bridge is currently on the state’s red list, which requires a stricter weight limit and more frequent inspections than non-red listed bridges. It is scheduled to be replaced next summer, with work starting as early as April 2015. Replacing the bridge as a whole considerably shortens the time frame of construction, but will also mean that the bridge will be impassible for several months while construction is happening.
In order to compete the work in as short a time frame as possible, the section of Route 124 near Warwick Mills, and directly before the intersection with Route 123, will be closed to traffic. Route 123 will still have access to Route 124 and the route to Highbridge Hill Elementary and Mascenic Regional High School.
Donal Lyford of the State Department of Transportation met with the Select Board on April 15 to discuss possible detours around the site as well as access for emergency vehicles. The town will be able to use Mill Street and Ypya Road as a detour for school buses and to allow a short detour for emergency vehicles that need to cross the bridge, Lyford told the board, but it was not recommended that the natural traffic flow be directed that way, due to the condition of the road. In order to ensure that only vehicles with authorized access use Mill Street and Ypya Road, temporary gates will be set up on either end of the detour. School buses and emergency vehicles would be set up with transponders, which would trigger the gates when access is needed. Each gate would also have a keypad and code, which could manually lift the gates, for instances when vehicles from mutual aid towns need to access the road.
Police Chief Tim Carpenter, who attended the April 15 meeting, noted that the keypads are a key issue, since mutual aid can come from any one of several surrounding towns, or from state police, and it would not be feasible to allow all of the potential responders in the surrounding area to have a transponder.
Resident Dave Cotzin was concerned with the security of being able to gain access to Mill Street with a keypad. “It’s going to get out,” he said of the access code. “I can keep a secret. It’s just the people I tell that can’t keep a secret.”
Lyford replied that the access code could be changed whenever there was need.
Normal day-to-day traffic would have a longer detour, being sent down Temple Road in New Ipswich, passing through the center of Greenville and down Route 123. Select Board member Becky Doyle questioned why the Mill Street access could not be available to the regular flow of traffic, since alternative detours would be significantly longer.
“I’m thinking residents trying to get to the school. It’s going to be not just a two minute detour, it’s going to be a 10 to 15 minute detour,” she said.
Lyford replied that the condition of Mill Street is the biggest concern, particularly for heavier vehicles such as trucks traveling through town. While there would be construction while school is in session, the majority would take place over the summer break.
The state will put the bridge construction out to bid in mid-May and will award the construction contract in late July or early August, according to Lyford. The construction will begin in mid-April of 2015 and be complete by that October.
Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ex. 244, or firstname.lastname@example.org. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaari.