Hadley considering removing deck from deteriorating and unused Dwyer’s Bridge

Hadley  04-19-2023

Hadley 04-19-2023


Staff Writer

Published: 02-23-2024 10:01 AM

HADLEY — A deteriorating deck on a North Hadley bridge, closed to vehicles for about 20 years, is being recommended for removal, despite objections from nearby residents that this would mean permanently losing an alternative public way to the adjacent Route 47 in advance of a culvert-replacement project.

Department of Public Works Director Scott McCarthy told the Select Board Wednesday he is supporting removing the deck, based on a Massachusetts Department of Transportation Small Bridge report and review by Comprehensive Environmental Inc. of Boston. Those showed that the one-lane bridge, known as Dwyer’s Bridge on Old River Drive over Russellville Brook, is no longer suitable for vehicular use.

“The bridge is in pretty rough shape, and it’s starting to pose a hazard to Hadley,” McCarthy said. “I would recommend that we would remove the bridge deck.”

It would also cost millions to rebuild, McCarthy said. “This poses a major liability for the town. If somebody gets hurt there, there’s going to be a problem,” McCarthy said.

The MassDOT Small Bridge report came in on Nov. 1 and was reviewed by Matthew Lundsted, principal at Comprehensive Environmental: “It is recommended that Hadley remove the existing deck but leave the abutments in place,” Lundsted wrote.

For William Dwyer and Linda Sanderson, though, with the bridge located in front of their home, the community would benefit from keeping the bridge intact, and it could be used again by the state when the culvert repairs on Route 47 get underway.

Dwyer said the bridge has been neglected by the town, but remains its responsibility. “What this situation reflects is probably close to 30 years of neglect and failure to maintain a town road in Hadley,” Dwyer said. “Just saying ‘off with its head, it’s no use anymore,’ it just seems to be a very poor way of making planning decisions for what needs to be done.”

The Select Board held off on giving the go ahead for the work until its next meeting in March.

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Karl’s Site Work of Hadley provided an estimate of $6,050 to remove the top of the bridge and to dispose of the metal, concrete and asphalt. The town will be responsible for removing asbestos pipe, though a water main that is attached to the bridge and connects to points to the north will remain.

McCarthy said the project is essentially taking the bridge top off, but leaving the rest of it intact. No changes will be made to the supporting structure or the approach to the bridge, aside from better fences and other measures to secure the bridge from trespassers.

“Eventually it’s probably going to fall into the water, and it would be our best interest to be proactive with this and remove it,” McCarthy said, adding that the bridge has no historical value and wouldn’t be used because people would stay on Route 47.

While the bridge is eligible for rehabilitation grants through the state’s Small Bridge program, McCarthy said this would be the last bridge he would apply for, because of limited resources. “It is a town road, it’s a town bridge, but it serves really no purpose,” McCarthy said.

Still, Dwyer said there is an historical component, as the bridge reflects what Hadley looked like 100 years ago. Sanderson said there should also be concern about public safety north of the bridge, where fire engines and police cruisers may be detoured when the culvert project starts.

Select Board member Jane Nevinsmith said the town has been able to live without the bridge for 20 years, though agreed there could be some complications when the Route 47 work begins.

Select Board member Randy Izer said he appreciates the concerns. But seeking a grant for this would mean another road to maintain and diverting funding for other projects. “There’s going to be so minimal use of it relatively speaking, that I don’t think it’s a good investment,” Izer said.

McCarthy said he isn’t sure what the state’s game plan for the culvert replacement on Route 47, but doubts that Dwyer’s Bridge would be used as an interim. “This bridge here is deficient,” McCarthy said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.