June 16. 2013 9:41PM

2nd NH Turnpike reopens thanks to temporary bridge

Union Leader Correspondent

A temporary bridge has reopened the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike in Francestown that has been closed since December because of the poor condition of the bridge. (NANCY BEAN FOSTER / Union Leader correspondent)

The 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike is open again following the three-week construction of a temporary bridge.It had been closed since the state shut it down for safety reasons in December, when the Department of Transportation recommended the immediate closure of the bridge that spans the Piscataquog River on the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, linking the Monadnock Region with the Souhegan Valley.Though the bridge had been on the state's "red list" of failing bridges for years, money had not been available to replace the two decaying culverts the run under the roadway.

In December, inspectors surveyed the bridge and deemed it unsafe for traffic, and the road was closed. Detours diverted vehicles around the failed bridge along rural back roads.

State funding for a complete replacement of the bridge is slated to become available in 2014, but the town, not wanting such an important thoroughfare to remain closed for that long, agreed to fund a temporary fix at town meeting in March, raising $70,000 to establish a one-lane bridge made with steel beams, wooden planks and cement barriers.

However, the town said in a press statement issued Friday that design modifications and the use of town labor has helped bring the project in well under budget.

Less than three weeks after construction began, the new bridge opened on June 13, according to the town."I am pleased to announce that the bridge on the turnpike is now open to traffic," said Board of Selectmen Chair Betsy Hardwick. "The Highway Department and our contractors deserve credit for doing a great job completing this project as quickly as possible once the engineering was finalized and all of the materials were lined up."Vehicles approaching the bridge will be met with stop signs and are expected to stop before entering the bridge, according to the town.Work on a permanent replacement for the bridge is expected to begin as soon as funding becomes available next year, according to Town Administrator Michael Branley.