FRANCESTOWN — Construction will begin on a temporary bridge on Francestown Turnpike to reopen the road which has been closed since December.
The bridge that spans the Piscataquog River on the turnpike has been closed since late last year after the Department of Transportation conducted an inspection and deemed it unsafe for traffic. Francestown Turnpike, also known as the 2nd New Hampshire Turnpike, which serves as a major route connecting the Souhegan Valley with the Monadnock Region and the Crotched Mountain Ski Area, was immediately closed and traffic was diverted onto a series of detours around the bridge.
Though the bridge has been on the state’s “red list” of bridges that are failing and in need of replacement for years, state funding for the project isn’t going to be available until 2014, said Town Administrator Michael Branley. Not wanting to keep the turnpike closed until the money to permanently replace the bridge becomes available, residents raised $70,000 to fund a temporary fix at Town Meeting in March.
On May 27, construction of the temporary span will begin, said Branley, starting with the excavation of the site to remove the two dilapidated steel culverts that waters from the Piscataquog pass through.
Steel bridge beams will then be installed and wooden decking will cover the beams. However, the temporary fix will open only one lane of the road so travelers will have to stop to let traffic already on the bridge proceed. Branley said either stop signs or a stop light will be used to control traffic flow, but that decision hasn’t been made yet.
Branley said he isn’t sure how long the construction will take. Timing will depend on the availability of materials. Besty Hardwick, chairman of the board of selectmen said it hasn’t been easy to line up the contractors necessary to do the work, but is glad work is scheduled to start this month.
“Although it has taken some time to get the contractors in place for this project, I am happy to know that the bridge will be open to traffic soon,” she said.