STOCKBRIDGE — The Massachusetts Department of Transportation ordered an emergency shutdown on Wednesday of the twin bridges connecting Route 183 to a portion of the town's Interlaken section on Averic Road.
The area has been hard hit by frequent flooding.
MassDOT inspectors from the department's Lenox office checked the two small bridges at the request of Highway Superintendent Leonard Tisdale, Jr.
The bridges over a mountain brook that feeds Stockbridge Bowl have been deteriorating because of erosion, Select Board Chairman Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo explained, but the severe flooding in the area following a five-inch deluge on May 29 and a two-inch downpour on May 31 contributed to the order for an emergency shutdown.
"The inspectors said, 'close it today,' " Cardillo said. L B Corporation of Lee quickly installed barriers cutting off access to the bridges.
Cardillo noted that one of the bridges had been undermined by flood-related erosion, while decking had been weakened on the second span.
The Select Board held an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. Wednesday to formally approve the shutdown by a 3-0 vote.
Tisdale had contacted MassDOT's Mark Devylder by e-mail shortly after 8 a.m. on Wednesday, describing the condition of the 11-foot and 18-foot spans.
He told the state official that while both bridges are a concern, "the larger one in particular has some pretty alarming soil scouring and fracturing of the concrete footings, which appear as though the footings are levitating without support."
"Surprisingly," he added, "the roadway over the spans has no signs of distress."
After seeking a quick examination from Berkshire Engineering, Tisdale explained, he was told that "they were not able to provide an analysis as to what weight it could safely support, and advised that I contact MassDOT for guidance."
The two bridges will be closed for at least a year, Cardillo predicted. The town's highway department is beginning design and engineering studies for replacements.
Residents who live in five homes most directly affected by the closure can access their properties through a detour on nearby Train Hill Road. "It's not really a major inconvenience except for more traffic on Train Hill," Cardillo commented.
Tisdale thanked the state agency for its prompt inspection of the bridges. "It's a huge benefit having you and the DOT to help with these things," he told Devylder.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
BRIDGE INSPECTIONS ...
Here is the Massachusetts Department of Transportation's official statement on the emergency shutdown of two bridges in the Interlaken section of Stockbridge on Wednesday:
MassDOT’s District 1 Bridge Engineer and District 1 Bridge Inspection Engineer performed an initial cursory inspection of both bridges on Wednesday morning. Extensive deterioration in the concrete deck and steel superstructure was noted on the first bridge. Extensive deterioration of the steel superstructure, as well as severe scour and undermining was noted on the second bridge.
The scour and undermining has caused severe distress to the un-reinforced concrete substructure that supports the steel beams. Based on the extent of the deterioration found, and as a matter of public safety, MassDOT’s District 1 directed the Town of Stockbridge to close the bridges to vehicular traffic, based on the visual inspection results.
These closures have nothing to do with either the dam directly upstream (at Interlaken Park) or further upstream at Stockbridge Bowl.
MassDOT is currently conducting formal inspections of state and municipally owned small bridges (10’ to 20’ span) in all districts in Massachusetts. This program was initiated to ensure that the State Bridge Engineer, as required by state law, can set the safe load carrying capacity of any bridge on a public way with a span length in excess of 10’. Earlier this year, MassDOT District 1 began these inspections and has closed multiple bridges due to extensive deterioration.