By Stephen Seitz
LUDLOW—Replacement of the Walker Bridge in Ludlow is one step closer to reality, following a public hearing held earlier in December. Walker Bridge crosses the Black River on Route 103 at the lower edge of the village.
Town attorney Chris Callahan told the Board of Selectmen that one more easement needed to be secured.
“We have reached a tentative agreement . . . to satisfy obtaining those easements,” Callahan said. “The signatory for that easement is going to come from Florida, so we’ve got a little bit of paperwork to work out. We have a handshake. We think we have the deal secured, but just to make sure, we’re going to go forward with the necessity hearing, and briefly one on valuation after that if necessity is found.”
Phil Carter, representing the Vermont Agency for Transportation, explained that the permanent easement would contain 602 square feet and was valued at $1,806, while the temporary easement, which will expire when construction is complete, was valued at $186. The Board rounded it to $2,000.
Aaron Guyette, a civil engineer from the South Burlington office of the engineering firm VHB, outlined the bridge’s problems and the need to replace it.
“Route 103 is arterial and part of the national highway system,” Guyette said. “The bridge itself has a sufficiency rating of about 45, which makes it functionally deficient. It’s in rough shape.” Guyette explained that the new bridge would have 11-foot lanes, and that the shoulders would be 4 feet 10 inches wide.
Selectman Bruce Schmidt asked, “Have you looked at all other options and anything which could be done differently with this project?”
Guyette said the company had.
“The project has gone through an alternatives analysis,” he said. “It was one of the first things we did. We started off with a local concerns meeting. We took those concerns back and developed alternatives for the project. We presented the alternatives, including the positives and negatives of each one, and we made a recommendation. This was deemed the alternative to move forward with.”
Resident Otis Nelson wanted to know how long the next bridge would last, and Guyette told him it would last about 75 years, the federal standard for new bridges.
According to the VTRANS project page, the project should go out to bid in August 2016, and will cost between $2.5 and $5 million. About 80 percent of the funding comes from the federal government, 15 percent from the state, and 5 percent from the town.
The Southwestern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission has listed the project for 2017, and estimates the bridge will be closed for four to six weeks.