MassDOT handling $6.3M Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge repair project

Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, pictured on the Conway side.

Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, pictured on the Conway side. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By CHRIS LARABEE

Staff Writer

Published: 06-07-2024 2:18 PM

CONWAY — As Conway and Shelburne continue to grapple with the indefinite closure of the Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, there is good financial news for the towns, as the Department of Transportation (MassDOT) will be handling the $6.3 million repair project.

The bridge, which was closed in August 2023, will undergo “deck/joint repairs, cleaning, and painting and guardrail updates” and is now in the preliminary design phase with the earliest possible advertising date for construction bids being 2027, according to MassDOT spokesperson John Goggin. The project is listed on MassDOT’s database as No. 613480.

“The MassDOT Project Review Committee approved a preservation project for the Bardwell's Ferry Bridge in October 2023. MassDOT assigned Stantec as the consultant of record for the design,” Goggin wrote in an email. “The current scope of work will include preservation of the main truss span and replacement of the approach span on the Conway side.”

Goggin noted the funding is likely to come from the federal government’s bridge program.

While the long wait for repairs may be difficult for drivers in both communities, Conway Selectboard member Chris Waldo said the financial burden would have been extremely difficult for the town to take on, especially since it is still faced with repairs on Shelburne Falls Road resulting from flooding in July 2023.

Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge and Shelburne Falls Road, he added, are two major arteries for traveling north out of town and one-third of residents live in these areas.

“That paired with the repairs needed for the bridge make both these tasks exponentially more critical,” Waldo said, adding that emergency services, school bus routes and convenience for residents all factor into how crucial these routes are.

The financial relief alone is important, as the bridge is slated for a $6.3 million repair, while Conway’s entire fiscal year 2025 budget approved at Town Meeting on June 1 is only $7 million.

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Although MassDOT is projecting a 2027 bid date at the earliest, Waldo said he has “high hopes” the project will move at a quicker rate, especially because the agency was extremely effective in putting up a temporary bridge on North Poland Road and in repairing flood damage on Route 116 last year.

Bardwell’s Ferry Bridge, which has a 198-foot span hanging 40 feet above the Deerfield River, was originally built in 1882 and underwent its last major rehabilitation in 1995, although it was briefly closed in 1997 when a truck damaged it. The deck of the bridge has been replaced in the past, but few other major alterations have been made since its construction.

“It affects Conway, Shelburne Falls, Buckland,” Waldo said. “I don’t think it will be four years. I anticipate it will be sooner than that.”

It was included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2000 and, when the documents were filed, was one of fewer than 50 bridges of this truss type surviving in the United States and one of only 10 remaining in Massachusetts.

 

Chris Larabee can be reached at clarabee@recorder.com.