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Red-listed bridges fail in Francestown, forcing detours
FRANCESTOWN - The 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike and Woodard Hill Road are closed after two bridges on the state's "red list" for years failed inspections.
"They've reached the end of their useful lives and no longer have the capacity to carry highway traffic, so we recommended to the town to close them down," said Dave Powelson, chief of the Department of Transportation's Existing Bridge Section. "It's not a recommendation we make lightly."
The town is scrambling to find money to repair the two bridges.
The 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike is a major route in and out of town, and is heavily traveled in the winter by people heading to the Crotched Mountain Ski Area. The detour of the turnpike adds a few minutes to that ride, but because the roads are narrow, Town Administrative Coordinator Michael Branley said it's inconvenient for commercial vehicles.
During a routine bridge inspection of Dec. 4, the bridge on the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike over the Piscataquog River and the Woodard Hill bridge that spans the Brennan Brook were both deemed unsafe for traffic, according to Powelson.
The turnpike bridge was scheduled to get funding from the state's highway fund in 2015, and the Woodard Hill bridge was slated for replacement in 2016. But it's not likely the town will be able to wait that long, so Branley said the town is working with the state to find a solution.
"The state Department of Transportation has been very helpful during this challenging situation," said Branley. "The bridge inspections occurred on Tuesday (Dec. 4) and DOT had a representative in Francestown discussing solutions with us first thing Thursday morning."
Powelson said there are ways to make temporary repairs to the bridges until state funding becomes available.
"There are short-term and long-term repairs that could be done that would take varying amounts of money or effort," he said.
Branley said that residents attended the board of selectmen's meeting Monday night with questions and concerns about the road closures, but thus far, people have been understanding.
"They've expressed confusion, not anger," he said. "They realize it's a tough situation."
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Nancy Bean Foster may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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