WILTON — Work has begun to rebuild the Island Street Bridge over the Souhegan River heading into downtown Wilton. The bridge is on Route 31, adjacent to the Wilton Police Station and a main access into the downtown and for the schools.
The work on the bridge began Monday, the day school let out for summer vacation in Wilton. Commuters should expect partial closing of the bridge with flaggers on each end until July 7. After that date, the bridge will be completely shut down for six weeks, with the bridge set to reopen around August 18.
During the time the bridge is closed, detour signs will lay out an alternate route of travel.
“It’s a state bridge and on the list to be repaired or rebuilt. They will replace the bridge,” said Wilton Selectman Kermit Williams. The state will pick up the cost.The work includes replacing the deck, replacing the bearings that hold the steel girders and repair or replace the abutment face, new sidewalks, curbs and railings.
“Once we have safe sidewalks and bridge railing in place, the bridge can be reopened,” said Project Supervisor Keith Warren from T Buck Construction based in Auburn, Maine.
One potential traffic nightmare is truck traffic running down Main Street. Currently, trucks are banned from Main Street and required to use the bridge. The storefront of Main Street has angled parking while the Town Hall side of the street has parallel parking, allowing very little room if two 18-wheeler trucks need to pass while cars are parked on both sides of the street.
Selectman Williams hopes the bridge is ready by August 16, when Wilton Old Homes Days starts, which is a 10-day celebration. The Firemen’s Parade, scheduled for August 18, would need to be rerouted if the bridge is still under repair.“I’m confident the bridge will be done in time for the Firemen’s Parade. We have a contingency plan in place for parking in case,” said Williams. The Old Homes Day Parade, on August 23, will be much larger with floats and bands and will use the lot on the other side of the bridge as a staging area. Organizers hope it’s reopened in time.
“It’s important to make sure the bridge is solid and when the work is done, it will last another 35-50 years,” said Williams.
“We will have a ceremony when the bridge reopens,” added Selectman Williams.