STOCKBRIDGE — Town voters have approved funds for design and engineering work leading to eventual repairs and restoration of several failing bridges.
At a special town meeting, residents unanimously approved spending of $100,000 on the bridge project, and $175,000 on a downtown water line replacement along Church Street, the site of frequent flooding following heavy rainstorms. The meeting was attended by 59 out of 1,662 registered voters.
The money to design, engineer and construct the Church Street project is being added to funds from the town's stabilization, or "rainy day" kitty, as approved by voters at the 2015 annual town meeting.
For the bridge projects, the money for engineering, design and restoration come out of stabilization approved at the 2016 annual town meeting.
The votes, while necessary, amount to a drop in the bucket for both infrastructure challenges.
Restoring two failing bridges along Route 183 between Route 102 and Berkshire Country Day School could require up to several million dollars to avert a possible shutdown by the state Department of Transportation, according to town officials. Three other bridges also need repairs or replacement, but those are lower-priority projects.
At the top of the list, as identified by Highway Superintendent Leonard Tisdale, is a small but deteriorating bridge over a culvert on Route 183 directly south of Berkshire Country Day School. The state Department of Transportation has described the structure as "something close" to failure, Selectman Stephen Shatz said earlier this summer.
On the same highway, near the Berkshire Botanical Gardens adjacent to Route 102, the bridge over Larrywaug Brook is also in bad shape.
If either bridge is shut down, traffic between the "four corners" intersection of Routes 183 and 102 in Stockbridge and destinations such as Berkshire Country Day School, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health and Tanglewood could be severed or disrupted.
Once design and engineering work for the bridges is completed along with projected costs, a bond issue to finance the reconstruction would require approval by town voters. Completion of the projects could take two or three years.
In late June, state DOT inspectors ordered the shutdown of two small bridges on Averic Road, just off Route 183, in the Interlaken neighborhood. Traffic to homes affected is being detoured on nearby roads.
Those bridges had been deteriorating due to erosion and flooding following a five-inch torrential downpour on May 29.
The Old Stone Arch Bridge, off Route 183 in the Curtisville neighborhood, has been closed to vehicles since October 2012 but has been stabilized and is open to pedestrians and bicyclists.
MassDOT has been conducting formal inspections of state and town-owned bridges with 10- to 20-foot spans.
Engineers from the MassDOT District 1 office in Lenox began the inspections earlier this year throughout the district's Western Massachusetts territory. The department "has closed multiple bridges due to extensive deterioration," according to the department's statement.
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.