BEDFORD — As the Route 101 widening project nears completion, a new transportation project is being studied that could once again cause disruption to a portion of the highly traveled roadway.
A red-listed bridge over Pulpit Brook could potentially be replaced starting in 2021. The project, which includes a new bridge along Route 101 at Pulpit Brook, as well as upgrades to the intersection of Route 101 and Twin Brook Lane, is included in the state’s draft 10-year transportation improvement plan.
The work, estimated to cost about $3.5 million, will likely take about two construction seasons to complete, according to Jennifer Reczek, project manager with the New Hampshire Department of Transportation.
If the project is deemed necessary, prep work for the construction of a diversion bridge could begin in 2021, with the main bridge work taking place in 2022, said Reczek.
“The culvert joints are separating and they don’t have the current capacity to pass some of the drainage from a major storm,” said Gerard Bedard, an engineer with the DOT.
According to Bedard, water has already overlapped Route 101, on occasion, because of the failing bridge.
The bridge would be completed in two phases, which would require Route 101 traffic to shift to a temporary diversion area; the northern portion of the bridge would be constructed first, followed by the southern portion.
Some overhead utility lines will need to be replaced, and some easements will be necessary as well, said Bedard.
This section of Route 101 is currently utilized by about 20,000 vehicles a day, he said.
“That volume is projected to grow to 25,000 vehicles per day in the design year,” added Bedard.
During a recent public hearing on the proposal, Capt. Chris Buchanan of Amherst Fire Rescue told DOT representatives that dozens of people have died along this stretch of roadway.
He stressed the urgency of separating the direction of travel along Route 101 with a median or crash barrier.
“We have seen the fallout from not doing that in the past,” said Buchanan.
The number of accidents in this vicinity is often not discussed, he said. When it comes to state-owned roadways, he said, a head-on collision in that area of 101 has a 250% higher mortality rate.
Becky Hebert, the town’s planning director, said Bedford officials are supportive of the project, adding she is pleased that the DOT has added a proposed left turn lane onto Twin Brook Lane at the Bedford and Amherst town line.
Some properties may need to be acquired along the stretch of Route 101, mostly to accommodate drainage issues, according to planners. In addition, temporary easements will also be necessary along sections of the Bragdon Farm conservation land in Amherst.
Rob Clemens of the Amherst Conservation Commission said the proposed project will have a significant impact on the stream and wetlands along the sides of the bridge. He urged the DOT to make sure the design of the new bridge takes that into consideration, and that after the bridge is constructed, that the area be monitored.
Other suggestions were made to consider the creation of a multi-use bike and pedestrian path in that area of Route 101.