Nashua cleared to begin work on Manchester Street Bridge
By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
— Bald eagles may have stalled the project, but the city has finally been granted permission to begin reconstructing the Manchester Street Bridge.
"We have delayed this a couple of times because of the eagles," said Gerry Reppucci, chairman of the Zoning Board of Adjustment.
On Tuesday, the board granted a special exception to allow the city of Nashua to work within the 75-foot prime wetland buffer of Pennichuck Brook to replace the nearly 80-year-old Manchester Street Bridge.
According to Joe Mendola of the city's engineering department, there is a bald eagle nest within the vicinity of the bridge.
"We need to keep that nest protected for the long haul," Mendola told the board. The typical breeding period for bald eagles is February to April, with the birds capable of flying and leaving their nests by July, said Mendola, adding they could decide to return to the nest.
With the eagles now gone, work can begin on the bridge project, which includes replacing the bridge, widening the roadway, adding a sidewalk, installing drainage swales other site improvements.
The Manchester Street Bridge has been on the municipal red-list of substandard bridges since 2008 because of structural deficiencies. The small bridge, which is over Pennichuck Brook between Nashua and Merrimack, is intended to be rebuilt with a larger paved width, safer cross slope and updated railing over the drinking water reservoir.
"Part of the structure will be built over," said Mendola.
City staff and engineers have been working with the state Division of Historical Resources and the Department of Environmental Services to mitigate the design's impact on existing wetlands.
The preliminary cost estimate of the bridge reconstruction is about $2.7 million.
"This project is jointly managed," Mendola said. The New Hampshire Department of Transportation is funding 80 percent, while the city is contributing 15 percent of the cost and the town of Merrimack is contributing 5 percent.
During construction, traffic will need to be detoured through the Henry Bourque Highway and Concord Street.
"It is long overdue to have this bridge replaced," Alderman Richard Dowd, Ward 2, told the board. "I'd like to see this go through."
Jack Currier, board member, said he supported the application, in part because it will aid with pedestrian safety and improve the public water supply by keeping contaminants out of the brook.
The city has been ordered to follow the bald eagle protection guidelines set forth by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department.firstname.lastname@example.org