A New Bridge on Route 2B?

christopher williamsST. JOHNSBURY - Built in 1936, Bridge Six on Vermont Route 2B in St. Johnsbury is now going to be replaced. The 77-year-old bridge is slowly deteriorating with major cracks, rust, and leakage. On November 19th there was a meeting held at the Welcome Center.

Project manager Christopher Williams from the Vermont Agency of Transportation presented the first draft of a project proposal for the bridge to community members, and also discussed other alternative options for the new bridge.

There are several types of bridges to be considered when proposing a new bridge, however finding the best possible solution isn't always easy. The current bridge is a three span steel beam bridge with a concrete deck. There were two alternatives considered by the Vermont Agency of Transportation; a rigid frame bridge, or an integral abutment bridge.

The agency is recommending that the town go with a rigid frame bridge. As part of the recommended proposal for traffic passage, they also encourage that there be a detour rather than putting up a temporary bridge. The other option would be to complete one side of the new bridge first, and then let traffic through by connecting half of the new bridge with half of the old bridge. Meanwhile the rest of the new bridge would be built.

The combination of a rigid frame bridge with a detour would not only be the quickest option because of the ability for construction crews to work 24/7, but also is the cheapest option. Williams put the estimated cost at $1,250,500. This number comes from $976,300 for construction with CET contingencies, $187,800 for preliminary engineering, and another $86,400 in right of way acquisition costs.

The design life is approximately 80 years, and the project development duration is four years for all the bridges being considered. However, with the recommended rigid frame option, construction duration would only take six months and the bridge would actually only be closed for six weeks.

No plans for the project are final and the agency is still in an early phase of planning. Concerns from a few of the community members at the meeting included the school bus route, re-routing in emergency situations, and how the properties of surrounding residents might be affected.

"The next step is after this meeting, we are going to go back to the office and were going to wait for comments, any comments we receive. Then we are going to meet to discuss them and decide the appropriate way to move forward after considering all the comments that we get," explained Williams.

After reviewing the comments the agency will eventually meet again with community members to assure that all issues or concerns have been met.