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WATCH: Cranes lift Great Barrington's Division Street bridge up and out, ahead of a temporary span's arrival this fall

Division Street bridge.jpg

Cranes are positioned this month at both ends of the Division Street bridge in Great Barrington. Crews cut the span in half before the cranes lifted the sections away, a process captured in a drone video by the company.

GREAT BARRINGTON — Engineers with Tighe & Bond used a drone and time-lapse photography to capture the removal of the Division Street bridge this month. A temporary span will likely open to traffic by mid-November.

The new, modular truss bridge will be in place around mid-September, after workers reinforce the abutments, said Town Planner and Assistant Town Manager Christopher Rembold. Next will come paving, installation of traffic signals and final details for the one-lane bridge, he said in an email.

The bridge will reopen this critical South County artery linking state routes 183 and 41 until construction can begin on a permanent bridge, one whose state permits would take several years to obtain.

The state shut down the 72-year-old bridge in September 2019 over safety concerns after an inspection that July. Inspectors had, years ago, marked the town-owned bridge "structurally deficient." At the time, it was one of 400 deficient bridges statewide.

Just months earlier, town voters had approved $4 million for the permanent bridge; soon that money was redirected to the current project.

Housatonic resident John Grogan was taking his daily bike ride when he saw the steel bridge being cut in half by a "giant machine."

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"It went through it like a nail clipper," he said.

Two cranes then each lifted a half. Marveling at the spectacle, he stopped to speak to engineers. They told him each half weighed just over 100,000 pounds.

Yet it is the weight of passing trucks that now concerns a number of residents. Some believe it was excessive and that high-weight truck traffic wore the bridge out too soon. Michelle Loubert and several other residents are pressing the town and the state to keep heavy trucks off the temporary bridge — or at least lower the weight limits.

"It is our concern that Division Street — populated by families — will now become Great Barrington's 'truck corridor,'" Loubert wrote to officials at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, asking them to review the weight limits. "This is unacceptable." 

The town could ask the state to exclude such trucks from the bridge, but that would require an engineering study, according to Judith Reardon Riley, a DOT spokesperson.

"Engineering studies must provide justification in addition to a viable alternative route," Riley said. "If granted, there are exceptions for deliveries or collections from abutting land, buildings and adjacent streets to which access cannot otherwise be gained."

Riley also said that Acrow, the bridge manufacturer, has its own restrictions, which the state authorized. While trucks with permits for higher weights than posted aren't allowed to cross the bridge, trucks with the three levels of posted weights are.

The current posted limits are 20 tons for single axle truck, 25 tons for double axle truck and 36 tons for tractor trailer, Riley said.

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

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