Officials hope to secure 'maintenance money' for the Padanaram Bridge

By Angie Hilsman | Jul 17, 2017
Photo by: Angie Hilsman Padanaram Bridge.

Tomorrow, officials will vote on a proposal to allot federal monies toward updating the Padanaram Bridge, a proposal that could shorten the closure time between the east and west side of the harbor.

The town has requested $493,171 in federal funding to address structural deficiencies in the Padanaram Bridge, which includes cleaning and re-grouting the center pier 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.

The $1 million project would use $493,171 in Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) monies for the fiscal year 2017-2021. TIP lists all federally-funded road and bridge projects in the region.

Lisa Estrela-Pedro, director of highway planning for the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD), said the TIP money was leftover in the budget from another project, and must be awarded by September 30.

The remaining half of project funding would come from the town's Department of Public Works, said DPW Director David Hickox. He said Town Meeting members have already appropriated $200,000 for the repairs, and $300,000 would come from the department's maintenance budget.

Hickox hopes to start the six- to eight-week project by late fall, although the project will be managed by the state Department of Transportation. He said the project will be advertised by August, which will allow contractors to bid on the work.

"Obviously we want to get it done when traffic is down in the village," he said, referring to the causeway construction. The causeway is scheduled to reopen in June 2018.

The project includes cleaning and re-grouting the center pier (which holds up the bridge) and approach piers, Hickox said. 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," he explained.

Hickox added that there is a seasonal restriction put on work done by the water; construction cannot be done between January 15 and the end of May, he said. Depending on when the state secures contractors, the start date may begin in 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. Traffic will be reopened to two lanes at the end of the work day, he said.

SRPEDD held a meeting to hear comments from the public on the proposal on July 11. The Southeastern Massachusetts Metropolitan Planning Organization will take a final vote on July 18 at 1 p.m.

Estrela-Pedro said that generally, if the money is there, project funding is approved unless there is a significant change in cost.

"I've been getting a lot of emails in support of the project," she said. Comments can also be submitted through email, phone, fax, via Facebook, Twitter, and in-person at the SRPEDD office. Visit srpedd.org for instructions on submitting comments, meeting information, and to view a copy of the full TIP amendment.

While bridge maintenance is a must for now, said officials, 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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