Local News
September 12, 2018

Survey gives three-month bridge project high marks

By Curt Peterson

WOODSTOCK—Replacement of Bridge No. 51 over Kedron Brook on Route 4 in Woodstock began in April and was completed on June 7, five days ahead of schedule, according to an email from Communications and Public Involvement Coordinator Megan Savage for the Montreal Infrastructure Consulting firm WSP.

“And the project came in under budget,” Savage said.

The Town Highway Bridge Program funded the project.  Woodstock took advantage of Act 153, reducing its contribution to 2.5 percent of the cost. The federal government paid 80 percent, and the state 17.5 percent.

It was the sixth bridge among seven to be rebuilt in the Agency of Transportation’s South Central Vermont Bridge Project. Construction was performed by Cold River Bridges LLC of Walpole, New Hampshire.

Killington’s Bridge No. 33 over the Ottauquechee River on Rte. 4 will be the seventh—to be done in 2020.

Between Aug. 1-10, Montreal-based infrastructure engineering consultants WSP solicited responses to a 14-question survey exploring public impressions of the Bridge 51 project.

Savage said 87.74 percent of respondents rated the project satisfactory, 55.66 percent said the community impact was “better than expected,” 82.88 percent thought VTrans’s communications were adequate, and 89.42 percent thought progress and traffic issues were communicated helpfully.

Overall, the 106 respondents gave the project high marks. By and large comments were positive, including worker politeness and industriousness, and the quality of work done. But four areas inspired some less than glowing remarks.

Condition of the streets in Woodstock inspired strong condemnation from three respondents—“pot holes everywhere except at the new bridge”, “the road [Route 4] is now in serious need of repair”, and “they should have paved while the bridge work was done.”

Three more complained about new bridge aesthetics, saying the concrete bridge is “unattractive, especially the railings.”

“The choice of style for bridge railings is suitable to German brutalist construction, not colonial Woodstock,” said one critic.

Project signage drew seven detractors. One thought the detour signs led heavy vehicles to low-weight-limit bridges and through small villages. Two thought the stop signs at Elm and Pleasant Streets were poorly considered.

“I witnessed a few close calls,” one wrote. Another said inattentive flagmen gave confusing, dangerous signals to waiting drivers.

A fourth said High Street signs were inaccurate, and one described all the signs as “Dumb.”

There was some effect on businesses as construction ensued.

Four businesses were closed completely for short periods, according to one survey-taker. Some felt businesses were undercompensated and that more consideration was given to landlords than to the business owners.

A respondent, self-identified as a business owner, wrote the experience was “painful and frustrating.”

According to Savage, “Due to site constraints access was blocked to one business and both the building owner and business were compensated.  Other adjacent property owners were compensated for construction impacts to the property. Right-of-way expenses were approximately $23,000.”

Some of the survey-takers were amazed how smoothly and quickly the bridge project was completed. The VTrans website credits use of “Accelerated Bridge Construction.” Large portions of the bridge are actually built off-site, trucked to the site, and quickly installed using cranes.

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