Division Street bridge

Don VanTassel fishes for smallmouth bass under the Division Street Bridge last summer. Great Barrington plans to install a modular temporary bridge until the state can overhaul the existing bridge, shut in 2019 after an inspection revealed that it was too dangerous for traffic.  

GREAT BARRINGTON — By spring or summer of next year, the blockage in the Division Street artery from the until-now indefinite bridge shutdown will be cleared by a temporary, modular one-lane bridge until the state builds one that is permanent.

The town is aiming to open bids for the work this fall, said Sean VanDeusen, the town's Department of Public Works director. He said it will take at least another year to get the road open.

"There are a lot of moving parts," he said. "We still will need to demolish the existing bridge and install an alternating light on each side [of the road]. And we are hoping to have a sidewalk."

All of this will involve environmental permitting, given that the deteriorating bridge spans the Housatonic River. It also will involve time to have the modular bridge made, and the weather could cause delays.

Right now, the plan is preliminary. The town engineers told the Select Board on Monday that they are about to submit plans to the state Department of Transportation for review.

And the cost, VanDeusen said, is unlikely to exceed the $4 million allocated for an overhaul by voters in 2019. 

It was a July 2019 inspection that deemed the bridge too dangerous for traffic and sparked the September shutdown. The 143-foot town-owned bridge, built in 1950, already was rated by the state as structurally deficient. Deferred maintenance over many years, as well as what some residents say was persistent and illegal heavy truck traffic, had weakened it to this point.

In October, state inspectors told town officials that the bridge, a crucial link between state routes 183 and 41, was in worse shape than initially thought, raising the cost of a temporary fix. 

The shutdown has scrambled truck routes and travel and even nearly destroyed a business. Outrage kept the issue at a boil, and town and state officials agreed to speed up permitting.

Town engineers have said the modular bridge will support full-size trucks. It also can be reused for other bridge overhauls in town, or sold after the state builds a permanent new bridge there — a project that is at least five years out, VanDeusen said. 

He said the DOT has placed the project on its priority list. 

Another closed bridge that is frustrating traffic flow is on Cottage Street. VanDeusen said the engineering work is underway, and the fix likely will take at least two more years to complete.

Heather Bellow can be reached at hbellow@berkshireeagle.com or 413-329-6871. On Twitter @BE_hbellow.