Three bridges are being rehabilitated this summer on U.S. Highway Route 4 in Canaan, N.H., work that state officials hope can be wrapped up late this fall before wintry weather sets in.
The Valley News, in nearby West Lebanon, reported May 15 that construction has already begun on the bridges spread over about 4.5 mi. of U.S. 4.
While the projects went out to bid before the passage of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) last fall, that infusion of federal funding into the state has helped keep the contractor on schedule, said Bill Cass, assistant commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT).
The first of the three bridges is near the Enfield/Canaan town line and spans the Mascoma River. During its construction, the state boat launch near the river bridge will be closed, according to NHDOT. The second span crosses Crystal Lake Brook near Mascoma Valley Regional High School; and the third bridge is on the Indian River near the Dollar General.
They are being treated as one project and will cost $1.6 million.
Beck & Belluci Inc., based in Franklin, N.H., is the lead contractor.
Traffic lights will be affixed to the end of each bridge's construction zone, allowing for alternating one-way traffic. Motorists traveling U.S. 4 the second week of May have already been stopped at the site of the bridge on the Enfield/Canaan town line.
Because of their proximity to one another, Cass said, "it was a good project in terms of efficiency to bundle a few of these bridges together in one project and impact traffic once instead of three times."
He noted that NHDOT predicts a busy summer for improving the three road structures. The plan is to work to finish one side of each bridge before Beck & Belluci shifts its efforts to the other side so the project can be wrapped up by the end of the construction season.
All of Canaan's emergency vehicles have been equipped with devices that will allow them to override the temporary traffic lights, town administrator Mike Samson told the Valley News. He does not expect the construction to affect response times, although it may lead to some headaches from motorists.
"Anytime you put a couple of one-way zones in two different spots it's going to impact traffic," Samson said.
Upgrades Part of N.H.'s 10-Year Bridge Update
Approximately 7,800 vehicles crossed the bridges over the Mascoma River and Crystal Lake Brook in 2020, with 6,000 traveling over the Indian River span, according to information compiled by NHDOT. By 2040, the state agency projects that 9,500 vehicles will cross the bridges over the Mascoma River and Crystal Lake Brook annually, and 7,400 will drive across the bridge at the Indian River.
"There are definitely more people traveling through New Hampshire and safe roads and bridges are our goal, so we're trying to maintain the system," Cass said, adding that U.S. 4 is an important road for the region.
Each of the bridge structures fit into New Hampshire's 10-year bridge update project, the state's plan for keeping its bridges in good condition.
"With that new funding, we're essentially able to update that program from what it was before and we're able to advance a lot of the bridges," Cass said.
2023 to See More Area Bridgework
While it is possible to take Blackwater Road around the first two bridges, there is not a good detour for avoiding the U.S. 4 crossing of the Indian River, according to Samson.
In 2023, two bridges on Grist Mill Hill and Potato roads, both of which span the Indian River, will be replaced using funding from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) of 2021, he told the Valley News. Each of the two routes connect to U.S. 4.
The bridge on Potato Road has steel beams that have too much rust to be repaired and a wooden deck that "was becoming more difficult," Samson explained. The Grist Mill Hill span is made up of steel beams and a concrete deck. Together, rehabbing them will cost around $2 million.
The town of Cannan has been setting aside money to meet the 20 percent match typically needed from New Hampshire towns for bridge projects.
"One way or another we were going to replace the Potato Road bridge within the next 12 months," Samson said. "With the new money, we're accelerating the start of construction [of both Potato Road and Grist Mill Hill Road]."
Without the federal funding, he said the Grist Mill Hill bridge likely would have taken another three years. Additionally, the IIJA funding helps free up more money for other flood mitigation efforts, including adding a large culvert and raising a part of Potato Road, which typically floods after heavy rainstorms. There also are plans to enlarge former train trestles under portions of the Rail Trail and replace the bridge that leads to the Canaan transfer station near the racetrack.
"It's pretty vital," Samson said of the federal funding. "We're not a very rich community. Our tax base is limited so it's a way for us to complete projects that otherwise would be delayed for years."
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