Woodford Route 9 bridge work begins, slated to open late next week
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
WOODFORD — State transportation officials said Thursday they plan to be able to reopen a Route 9 bridge late next week.
The bridge was washed out Sunday by raging water from Tropical Storm Irene, cutting off access to Bennington from the west.
Mike Hedges with the Vermont Agency of Transportation said construction crews working on the Bennington Bypass have been mobilized to work on repairing the bridge. They are also helping to replace a water main that feeds the town of Bennington from its water treatment facility just west of the bridge.
Officials sought earlier this week to locate a temporary, one-lane bridge to allow traffic to access Woodford and Wilmington, whose downtown was devastated by flooding. Hedges said that plan has been scrapped, however. Instead, crews will look to remove the collapsed portion of the bridge and fill it with earth.
“We got a pretty quick repair method for it and they should be able to move right on to that,” Hedges said. “The bridge itself is in fine condition. It just lost that one abutment, the west abutment. The plan is to cut off that span of bridge, cut that loose, and then fill in that first span using geo-textile fabrics to build a stable soil that fills in behind that first pier.”
Hedges said soil and rock will be wrapped in the woven, plastic fabric and built up in layers. That new platform where the collapsed span was will then be reinforced with stone, he said. “They’ll be putting traffic on that and the rest of the bridge,” he said.
The fix is temporary to allow traffic to begin flowing, he said. “There’s a lot of temporary measures out there,” Hedges said.
Project Manager Jim Harris, who normally oversees the Bennington Bypass work, said contractors were authorized Wednesday to begin work.
“The contractor has begun the work and I guess the very preliminary estimate will take between now and the second half of next week before the work will be completed. But, we’re doing this on the fly,” he said. “I don’t think it will be any time before the second half of next week.”
Harris noted that engineers and workers were moving with great speed to allow for traffic to pass, however. He said the current plan could still change.
“We’re trying to move as quickly as possible but when you do that you sometimes aren’t aware of something or overlook something and have to make adjustments,” he said.
Meanwhile, the same crews authorized to begin bridge repairs are helping to replace the Bennington water main, too. Harris said local and state officials will worry about who is responsible for costs later.
“I have no idea. The instructions that I got was let’s find a solution and start to implement a solution,” Harris said. “To the extent that we can’t point at it and say that we did this to repair the bridge, then that’s going to end up being a town cost.”
“I think that that is almost secondary to the need to get the water line reestablished. There are a lot of people counting on that water line,” Harris added. “To sit around thinking about who is going to pay for it is not important at this time.”
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org