LEE — A $3.6 million bridge is planned to replace a deteriorating, inefficient span vital to a growing commercial enterprise along the Housatonic River.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation recently unveiled the federal- and state-funded project to town officials and representatives of several businesses on Valley Street. The river crossing links Valley with Crystal Street in Lenox Dale — the only viable truck route to the industrial complex. Once the design is completed, MassDOT expects to bid the work next year with construction anticipated from the fall of 2017 to October 2018.
The single-lane prefabricated steel truss on new concrete will be built just north and at about a 45-degree angle to the existing steel, open grated deck installed in 1983 that replaced the original bridge built in the 1890s.
The water and sewer lines will be relocated along the new bridge and allow for foot traffic, although no sidewalk is planned.
Thanks to short-term repairs earlier in the year by LB Corp. of Lee, the current bridge will remain open during construction with an unlimited weight capacity.
MassDOT temporarily instituted a weight limit this winter and spring due to the bridge being structurally deficient and inpoor conditions, primarily due to corroded floor beams.
While the bridge life expectancy is a serious concern, repositioning the new one is crucial to improving safety for today's longer tractor trailers.
"A lot of trucks have difficulty turning onto and off the bridge," said MassDOT structural engineer Kathryn Jenner. "[The bridge] will no longer be perpendicular."
Jenner's good news came at Thursday's 30 minute public hearing on the project at Lee Memorial Town Hall.
Afterwards, Vice President Shaun Ouilette at Excelsior Integrated told The Eagle how the bridge will better accommodate his company's 20-30 daily truck deliveries.
"The angle should be perfect for what is needed," he said. "This helps the businesses all around."
Excelsior is one of several companies within the Valley Street complex owned by L B Corp. of Lee. with current employment totaling 130. L B Vice President Steve Garrity expects that figure to reach 150 as two businesses are expanding.
"We have to get more jobs," Garrity said. "This bridge is perfect and the tenants are ecstatic."
The Valley Street bridge is one of four aging spans in Lee the state has deemed deficient including the heavily travelled West Park crossing over the Housatonic River. Town officials estimate $11.5 million in today's dollars to pay for four new bridges.
Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233