Construction of bridge starting

Town officials: Final cost estimate for temporary fix still unclear

FRANCESTOWN — Construction on a temporary one-lane bridge was slated to begin today on the 2nd N.H. Turnpike, where a bridge has been closed since December.

The N.H. Department of Transportation recommended late in 2012 that the bridge on the Turnpike, one of the town’s main roads, be closed for safety reasons. Since the time of the bridge’s closing, the town has been using Red House Road and Cross Road as detour routes around the bridge.

The town narrowly voted to approve an amendment to the operating budget at Town Meeting in March for an additional $70,000 to be used for construction of a temporary bridge. In March, the Francestown Select Board voted unanimously to rely on the town’s Highway Department for principal construction of the bridge.

At the end of April, requests for proposals were sent out for construction services the Highway Department could not provide and for lumber. In going with inhouse construction, the rationale was that the town would not need the entire $70,000 allotted for the project.

Town Administrator Michael Branley said in a phone interview Wednesday that the total cost estimate for the project has yet to be determined.

Select Board Chair Betsy Hardwick said in a phone interview Wednesday that the board had originally set a ballpark figure of $55,000, although they won’t know the final cost until, as Branley said, everyone sits down and figures out the final costs.

Hardwick said construction would begin today after Monday’s Memorial Day holiday. All the lumber materials will be arriving within days of the start of construction.

Select Board member Scott Carbee was a proponent of the bridge plan proposed at Town Meeting by Francestown Sand and Gravel’s Kris Stewart. Stewart’s plan, Carbee said in a phone interview Wednesday, was what residents had voted positively on. Since then, the town has strayed from that proposal and gone with other options that have delayed the opening of the bridge, he said.

“If we had gone with the plan from the beginning, we’d have been driving that bridge last week,” Carbee said. “The whole thing is starting to backfire, as far as I’m concerned.”

The Turnpike bridge is scheduled to receive state bridge aid and will be permanently repaired in the summer of 2014, roughly a year from now.

Hardwick said town officials will need to follow the same bid processes they went through for the temporary bridge. Town policy states that any project this large must go out to bid, she said.

There is no estimated time of completion for the temporary bridge, but Hardwick said it shouldn’t be long before it’s finished. As of Wednesday, workers had already started cutting pavement to be removed to make way for the temporary bridge.

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