At over 85 years old, Marblehead’s Village Street bridge needs to be replaced, and the town hopes to tap into Massachusetts Department of Transportation dollars to pay for it fully.
“The town is in the process of applying for inclusion in the MassDOT Transportation Improvement Program to fully fund the construction of the bridge replacement,” the town’s engineer, Charlie Quigley, told the Marblehead Current. “The town is anticipating covering the cost of the design services with Chapter 90 funds.”
Marblehead officials are already very familiar with the TIP program.
“This is the same program we used to fund the construction of the Village, Vine and Pleasant project, we are on the TIP with this project now,” said Marblehead Town Planner Becky Cutting. “The way it works is we pay for the design, and the design engineer whom we hire will provide all of the design and interface with the TIP project for the town from options through final design.”
Constructed in 1939, the Village Street bridge is 50 feet long by 43 feet wide, allowing vehicles to pass over the right-of-way underneath it. A tunnel sits below the bridge deck, permitting traffic along the Marblehead Rail Trail.
“Large utility vehicles travel under the bridge on a service road in the right-of-way to maintain the various utilities within its limits,” wrote the Marblehead Engineering Department in a request for design services. “The gravel and stone dust service road has been improved to carry a significant amount of pedestrian and bicycle traffic.”
Officials determined three years ago that the rail trail below the bridge posed a safety hazard due to the bridge’s deteriorated state. The town used fencing, staging and planks to create a “temporary exclusion zone” with a tunnel to accommodate rail trail users.
“The bridge deck has had small local repairs made to it in the past few years with an additional small repair scheduled for this spring,” Quigley said.
Moreover, Quigley said MassDOT will vet preliminary design options from rehabilitation — the deck replacement and masonry repairs — to replacing the bridge with a new bridge or tunnel.
“If MassDOT selects the tunnel as being the most advantageous, it will be large enough to allow the largest emergency apparatus and utility vehicles,” Quigley said. “MassDOT officials have been quoted as saying the cheapest bridge to maintain is the one that’s not there anymore.”
The town engineer went on to note that a pair of similar MassDOT projects culminated with tunnel bridges in Amesbury and Foxboro.
“The tunnel option has the potential of creating the least impact on Village Street traffic,” Quigley said.
Marblehead named the Village Street bridge after the town’s former engineer, Harold B. Breare.