Farmington residents and officials recently discussed plans to replace the structure of the Route 153, Main Street bridge and whether to detour traffic to link Route 11 to the downtown. (JOHN QUINN PHOTO)
Farmington bridge plans heard
About 15 residents heard last Thursday from representatives of the N.H. Department of Transportation. The presentation offered two proposals to accommodate area residents during a $3 million project to replace the bridge along Route 153, Main Street, over the Cocheco River.
Its concrete supports crumbling, the bridge - which was built in 1924 - is ranked 20th on the state's "red list," according to Ron Kleiner, project engineer for the DOT's bridge bureau.
"Right now, the bridge is in tough shape," Kleiner said, adding about 8,000 vehicles cross the structure every day.
When state and local officials discussed the project Jan. 14, the consensus of Selectmen was to use a temporary bridge rather than keep one lane open during construction.
The phased option costs about $30,000 more than the other option, according to Robert Landry, consultant design chief of the DOT's bureau of bridge design.
Landry said a temporary bridge - on which traffic speeds would be reduced to 25 miles per hour - would probably have less of an impact on traffic, but it would mean a longer construction period.
Police Chief Kevin Willey said he's happy with either of the plans since each will keep traffic flowing.
He added closing the road altogether during construction would tie up traffic, especially since Route 153 is a main conduit for the area.
Like most others who attended the meeting, abutter Gary Feroz, who owns Seneca Machine along Main Street, feels the temporary bridge is the best option.
Resident David Cestner said he was concerned about the impact on Crowley's gas station, which abuts the project on the other side of the Cocheco River from Seneca. He added it's entirely possible construction-related traffic will drastically affect business at the small station, which has limited parking.
"There's no way someone will want to pull in to get gas, soda or even a cold six pack because they may not be able to get out," Cestner said.
Landry said officials will try to adjust the plans to alleviate any issues before returning to town with their recommendation.
Either way, Landry said, construction will not begin until 2016. He said the project schedule factors in the time needed to hold a hearing, to purchase rights of way and build a temporary bridge, if needed.
As part of the process, the state will have to acquire a wetlands permit. Officials will also identify any historic structures or burial sites near the bridge, which is about 90 years old, according to Christine Perron, senior environmental manager for the DOT's Environmental Bureau.
Anyone with information about historic sites or burial grounds around the bridge is encouraged to contact Perron at (603) 271-3717 or via e-mail at: email@example.com.
For more information, or to see the proposed plans or read about past meetings, visit www.nh.gov/dot/projects/farmington16146/index.htm.