Two bridges will be replaced in Lyme this year
Lyme ― Two structurally deficient bridges that have either limited or prohibited through traffic on local roads over the past several years are slated to be replaced this year.
First Selectman David Lahm said the town last week awarded the $889,202 contract for replacement of the 14.5-foot-long Birch Road bridge over Falls Brook to Suchocki & Son, Inc. of Old Lyme.
Lahm said he expects construction on the bridge to begin sometime around May, targeting late summer for completion.
A lower bid of $776,335 from Clinton-based New England Road, Inc. was rejected because the company did not meet all the qualifications, according to Lahm.
Licensing documents from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Projection said the project will replace the bridge with a 21-foot-long, precast concrete box culvert.
Lahm said bids on the replacement of the 50-year-old Macintosh Road bridge over the Eight Mile River have been received, but the town has not yet awarded the project. The cost is estimated at $1.2 million and work is expected to take place over the summer.
Officials since 2020 have been saving for the projects in the town’s capital reserves. In the current budget alone, officials added $829,873 for the Birch Mill Road project and $581,710 for the Macintosh Road project.
The $1.4 million total accounts for more than half of the $2.4 million increase in the town’s capital expenses compared to the previous year.
Lahm said the Birch Mill Road project is fully funded while the remainder of the Macintosh Road project will be included in the 2023-24 budget.
The federal government will reimburse the town for 80% of the cost of the Macintosh Road bridge replacement, while the state Department of Transportation (DOT) will cover half of the smaller Birch Mill Road project.
The Birch Mill Road bridge has been closed since 2019 because of its poor condition, and the Macintosh Road bridge was subsequently downgraded to prohibit large vehicles, such as firetrucks and school buses, from crossing.
The first selectman attributed the two-year delay in beginning the work to a lengthy permitting process. The approval from the Army Corps of Engineers came through in November, according to Lahm.
The Zoning Commission from 2020 and 2021 raised concerns about the aesthetic aspects of the bridge, according to meeting minutes. Former First Selectman Steve Mattson in December 2020 assured members there would be a public hearing after permits were secured.
In August 2021, town engineer Don Gerber made a presentation to the Zoning Commission on the project. Members afterward voted to approve a favorable report to the Board of Selectmen.
Lahm said the presentation to the Zoning Commission served as a public hearing on the matter. The item was listed in the “old business” section of the agenda and was not advertised as a public hearing.
The Local Bridge Program Manual updated in 2019 said a public hearing does not have to be a formal hearing “as long as the public is provided an opportunity to comment on the project and minutes are kept.”
The state DOT could not by press time provide details about the requirements, if any, for a public hearing on local bridge projects such as this one.
Macintosh Road Bridge will be extended
The National Bridge Inventory specifies the Macintosh Road bridge is in fair condition, while the substructure is in serious condition.
Project engineers with the state Department of Transportation and SLR International Corp. at a 2021 informational meeting acknowledged the bridge is in an “environmentally sensitive area” where two of the three abutting properties are owned by or under a conservation easement through the Lyme Land Trust. They said the Eight Mile River’s prestigious Wild and Scenic federal designation added additional scrutiny to the process.
Plans call for extending the span from 50 to 64 feet and using methods that allow for water to flow underneath more efficiently during flood conditions and to reduce the chances of debris getting trapped there.
Engineers during the informational meeting said the road will be closed during construction with a detour south onto Mount Archer Road and Route 156. Access will be maintained to the parking area for Jewett Preserve to the west of the bridge as well as the swimming area to the east, they said.
A nearby bridge upgrade to the East Haddam Swing Bridge started to affect local traffic this month. The rehabilitation project, slated to last through the spring of 2024, includes periodic closures resulting in a 30-mile detour that includes Routes 82 and 156 in Lyme. Updates are available at www.easthaddamswingbridgeproject.com.