Bridge Street Bridge open again to two-way traffic

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GREAT BARRINGTON — The Bridge Street bridge, the principal asphalt umbilical from the eastern side of town into the Main Street corridor, reopened to two-way traffic on Tuesday morning.

For the past year, only one lane of the 66-year-old bridge was open. A temporary traffic light regulated traffic to and from East Street to Main Street. This, at times, caused some traffic congestion. Traffic estimates from several sources indicated the traffic flow on the bridge averaged about 8,200 cars daily.

In 2014, the town applied for a grant from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to upgrade the structure, which spans the Housatonic River. A 2012 inspection by MassDOT rated the structure as meeting "minimum" structural standards. The bridge deck and substructure were rated "good," but the superstructure was only rated "fair" in 2012, according to the National Bridge Inventory.

The grant was for $1 million. The town also contributed $1 million toward the repair, according to Town Planner Christopher Rembold.

In addition, the town also applied for a MassWorks grant to complete paving, utility upgrades and streetscape work around the bridge, according to Rembold. That portion of the project has not yet begun, said Rembold, as the priority was renovating the bridge.

MassWorks is an arm of the state's Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development that provides money for municipalities seeking infrastructure funding for economic growth and development. The town was eligible for a MassWorka grant at the time because of the pending development of the former Searles School into a hotel and the development of a mixed-use complex at 100 Bridge Street.

"We expect to begin that phase of the project in the spring," said Rembold.

Ironically, there has not been a lot of movement on those two projects of late. But Lenox-based Landmark Development has won approval to raze the former Laramee Cleaners building, also on Bridge Street. The ultimate plan there is to build an expanded 14,000-square-foot Co-Op Market with added retail space and condominium units.

Work on the bridge began in 2016, according to Eagle files. That work began with a closing of the bridge for three days, from Sept. 12-14.

The pony truss bridge was constructed in 1951, according to Eagle files. It was built to replace a a wooden structure that was washed away in the Great Barrington Flood of 1949, according to files.

The original bridge was built sometime in the late 1800s, according to local historian Gary Leveille's book, "Legendary Locals of South County."

Prior to the construction of the structure, resident George "Hermit" Crosby operated a ferry on the river to get residents to and from the Main Street corridor. When the bridge was completed, "Hermit" Crosby, according to the story, became slightly unhinged. He became more and more eccentric and was finally committed to a mental hospital in Northampton. He died in 1891.

Reach staff writer Derek Gentile at 413-770-6977


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