Officials grant $1.2 million  for Padanaram Bridge cleanup

By Angie Hilsman | Jul 19, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Padanaram Bridge.

The Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization voted on July 18 to put forth $1,188,000 in federal and state monies toward maintenance work on the Padanaram Bridge

The decision is a response to the town's request for $493,171 to address the bridge's structural deficiencies. The town had originally pledged $500,000 from the Department of Public Works' budget to supplement funding for the $1 million project.

However, when two other 2017 regional projects came in at a lower cost than expected, the organization, part of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), decided to allocated the remaining monies to the Dartmouth project.

The funding comes from Surface Transportation Program (STP) monies for the fiscal year 2017-2021. STP projects specifically fund road and bridge projects in the region with 80-percent federal monies and 20-percent money from the state.

"As of right now, the town's not on the hook, not unless there's any cost overruns," said SRPEDD Director of Highway Planning Lisa Estrela-Pedro, adding that the town would have to contribute if the maintenance ran over 10-percent of its estimated cost. "The full amount will come from STP."

Officials hope the funding will shorten the closure time between the east and west side of the harbor because the work can be done while the causeway is still closed. Construction work began on the causeway last August for roadway, drainage, structural, and lighting improvements. It is scheduled to reopen in June 2018.

The six- to eight-week bridge maintenance project will include cleaning and re-grouting the center pier (which holds up the bridge) and approach piers. In the state’s latest bridge report, completed last winter, officials said the work was needed to re-establish the bridge’s structural integrity, and requires immediate action.

Such cleaning was last done in 1988.

"If you can imagine big blocks of granite stacked on top of each other, they're held together with grout. The movement of the water, the tidal action, wears the grout out," explained Department of Public Works Director David Hickox.

He hopes the project will start by late fall; it will be managed by the state Department of Transportation. The project will be advertised by August, which will allow contractors to bid on the work, he said.

“Obviously we want to get it done when traffic is down in the village,” Hickox added, referring to the causeway construction.

Hickox said that there is a restriction prohibitting work by the water between January 15 and the end of May. Depending on when the state secures contractors, the start date may be scheduled for the spring instead.

If the work is ongoing after the causeway reopens, Hickox said bridge traffic will be limited to one lane Monday through Friday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Both lanes will reopen to traffic at the end of the work day, he said.

SRPEDD had held a meeting to hear public comments on the town's request on July 11. Estrela-Pedro said she had also received "a lot of emails in support of the project."

While officials said bridge maintenance is a must for now, Hickox hopes to eventually replace the bridge altogether.

"It's a very old, large mechanical system that we operate everyday. It really needs to be replaced," he said. The bridge was built in 1935.

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