West Park Street Bridge in Lee facing significant repairs

The West Park Street bridge is the second bridge in Lee to be downgraded by the state, with a weight limit now of 33 tons due to structural issues. Wednesday, April 6, 2016. Stephanie Zollshan - The Berkshire Eagle.

LEE — A deteriorating downtown bridge is facing significant repairs after a recent January thaw allowed melted snow and rain to seep through the span into the Housatonic River.

The West Park Street bridge — one of four in town the state has deemed deficient — recently underwent a temporary fix to replace a 10-by-20-foot section of chewed up pavement covering the decking, according to Lee Department of Public Works Superintendent Christopher Pompi.

"Water got between the asphalt and concrete," he said. "One of the holes saw the water go through the deck, and you could see icicles form after it froze."

After a special cold patch to fill the potholes didn't hold, the town enlisted LB Corp, a local contracting/road construction firm, to apply a temporary fix. Late last week, the company made it own hot blacktop mix to smooth over the macadam until a permanent fix is done later in the year.

Pompi plans to seek annual town meeting approval to pay for stripping back all of the bridge asphalt, install a decking membrane and resurface the span. His estimated price tag is $50,000 to $75,000.

"When we open up the road, we'll evaluate the concrete to see what shape it's in," he said.

Structurally, Pompi noted, the bridge remains the same.

In April 2016, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, based on a visual inspection of the support beams, imposed a weight restriction on the bridge fearing it could no longer handle any vehicle over 33 tons. A second, more thorough inspection by a private structuring engineering firm found the beams in better condition than first thought, prompting MassDOT to remove the weight limitation two months later.

The steel beam and concrete bridge was constructed in 1890 and rebuilt in 1932 to last 75 years.

Town officials noted two years ago replacing the bridge would cost an estimated $6.2 million, based on 2016 figures.

The West Park Street bridge links the downtown to numerous residences, several businesses and the community's lone golf course. The span is crucial for LB Corp, Oldcastle and other companies that rely on large commercial vehicles to haul heavy loads to and from their businesses in the Marble Street area over the bridge.

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233.