Tuesday January 24, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- In several weeks, residents of Lakeway Drive on Onota Lake can expect a stronger, safer bridge to their homes.

State transportation officials have given the Pittsfield the green light to install a temporary bridge over the existing one until a new, permanent span is built, according to city officials.

Public Utilities Commissioner Bruce I. Collingwood says bids for the estimated $100,000 to $200,000 interim structure are due Friday at City Hall. Once the contract is awarded, Collingwood said it will take the contractor a few weeks to deliver and assemble the temporary span.

"It will be rated for a tractor trailer," he said. "In a sense, no weight limit."

Last summer, the 75-year-old-span -- the only permanent access to Lakeway Drive -- was deemed unsafe by state bridge inspectors due to severe corrosion in two of the bridge's 10 steel beam supports.

State officials wanted the bridge closed until a new one was built. However, in late August, the city decided to reduce it to a single lane of traffic with a three-ton limit. The bridge was initially rated for between 12 and 25 tons. While most cars weigh three tons or less, delivery, fuel and city trucks far exceed the revised limit.

Three weeks ago, the Parks Commission agreed to open a temporary road through Burbank Park that will connect the Lakeway neighborhood with Valentine Road. The interim thoroughfare is necessary to handle the heavier vehicles, until the temporary bridge is in place, after which the alternate route would be closed.

The commission approved the Burbank Park access for at least 30 days with the caveat the city move faster to install the temporary bridge -- a project that's been discussed since September.

Collingwood said the city had been patiently waiting for the state's OK.

"We went through two rounds of submittal with [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] to get the approval," he noted.

Parks Commission Chairman John Herman said his board is pleased the temporary bridge project is on a fast track. The five-member panel is anxious to close the access road before spring weather returns and with it more people recreating at Burbank Park.

However, Herman noted the alternate route will likely be needed again.

"The concern for the Parks Commission is once the new bridge is worked on, the road will be re-opened for a longer period of time," he said.

Collingwood cited how work on the permanent bridge replacement is a "multi-year process."

"The city sees a new bridge in place several years from now," he said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:

rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,

or (413) 496-6233.