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'Dangerous' Dalton Bridge Not Chosen for Federal Infrastructure Bill

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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DALTON, Mass. — Despite the town's best efforts, an overhaul of the bridge at East Housatonic Street and Carson Avenue with inadequate pedestrian access was not chosen for an anticipated federal infrastructure bill.

"As it turns out, Massachusetts was allowed 10 projects to be put in as possible projects for the federal infrastructure bill, and this did not make the cut," Traffic Commission Chairman Daniel Filiault told the commission Monday during their meeting.

The two-lane bridge did not meet the criteria for repair because it is structurally sound. This means The project will essentially be in "limbo" until it meets the state's criteria for repair, staying on the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's list of bridges needing attention.  

This is a concern of Select Board member John Boyle  who has said that the bridge's lack of space for bikes and pedestrians is dangerous.  A public sidewalk also ends abruptly right before the structure. The sentiment received support from the town.

A pedestrian bridge including the missing sidewalks was fully engineered in a federal road construction plan conceived in 2010 but was excluded from the plan in 2012-2013 for its $5 million price tag at the time.

In March, Boyle proposed that the town revisits the bridge construction.  He called its current condition a "disaster waiting to happen."

In May, The Traffic Commission voted to support Boyle's proposal to advance a walkway project for the bridge.  The commission gave Boyle a letter of support addressed to Congressman Richard Neal and  Filiault spoke with the congressman about supporting the cause.

Besides the bridge being structurally sound, Filiault said, it may not be high priority for repair because of its 60-foot drop to the water, making it a difficult fix.  It was last repaired in the early 1980s and was said to be "very difficult" considering the interruption to traffic and the bridge's elevation from the water.

Considerations for the addition of a sidewalk and bike lane reportedly began in the late 1990s and posed the issues of lack of space for both additions on the structure, warranting the high cost.  

Filiault added that the state has a crew who dedicates all of their time to bridgework, reviewing Massachusetts structures yearly and giving a 14 point criteria estimate to determine any need for repair.

The town of Dalton will have the opportunity to petition for the state to review it again.

The commission did not have a quorum, as Filiault, Al Nadeau, and Cam Cachet were the only members present.  Not able to vote on items, the panel also discussed pedestrian signs on Main Street, work on Dalton Division Road, and the Main Street, South Street, Housatonic Street Intersection proposals.

They also discussed:

• The town has been anticipating the installation of pedestrian signs on Main Street since 2014.  The company hired to do the work reported last week that they have all the materials necessary for the job and once the rain stops, it can be completed.

• Dalton Town Manager Tom Hutchenson has been working to get the RFP together so that the town can develop 25 percent a plan for improvements on Dalton Division Road.  The town is working with Pittsfield Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales and will have an additional public hearing with residents of Pittsfield and Dalton.

• Proposals for the Main Street, South Street, Housatonic Street intersection have been reduced to two options: a roundabout or reconfiguration of the intersection and work on the traffic lights.

A town meeting will be held for public input on the project and following that, a recommendation will be brought back to the Select Board for debate.  The Traffic Commission was asked for comment on the proposals but Filiault denied comment until they can review the final proposals.


Tags: bridge project,   

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