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December 04. 2013 11:09PM

Bridge that connects Nashua with Merrimack will be closed for 15 months

People who travel the Manchester Street Bridge from Nashua to Merrimack will need to use an alternate route for the next 15 months while the bridge undergoes a $1.9 million overhaul.

"The bridge has been shut down and the contractor is beginning the work," said City Engineer Steve Dookran. "Our schedule is to have the project completed by the spring of 2015, but we are hoping it might be earlier than that."

Both communities have advised drivers to use detours on the Daniel Webster Highway in Merrimack and the Henry Burke Highway and Concord Street in Nashua.

The bridge, which was built in 1935, was placed on the municipal red list of substandard bridges in 2008 because of structural deficiencies. However, it took several years for the project to make it out to bid late last summer.

During the long planning process, the state Division of Historical Resources investigated the area for Native American artifacts. The City of Nashua, which is overseeing the project, was also required to maintain the bridge's large stone abutments as an historical resource.

Wildlife and conservation officials also had concerns about a bald eagle nest a few hundred feet away from the bridge.

"We've been given guidelines on protecting the nest," said Dookran. "At first, we were worried that it might slow us down, but it's all standard and all doable."

Audley Construction Company of Bow will be doing the construction work, which includes widening the two traffic lanes, adding a sidewalk, improving draining and making other site repairs.

The State Department of Transportation is picking up 80 percent of the cost of the project, Nashua is paying 15 percent, and Merrimack will foot the bill for the remaining 5 percent.

"That's a funding formula the state uses that is based on population," said Dookran.

The bridge crosses over the Pennichuck Brook, which older residents may remember as a favorite spot for ice skating parties. However, today the brook is part of Nashua's water supply network. For years the bridge has been lined with chain link fence and topped with barbed wire to protect the area from trespassers.

"The fence will be put back up as part of the project," said Dookran.

btaormina@newstote.com


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