Division Street bridge Great Barrington

The state closed the Division Street bridge in Great Barrington in 2019 because of a structural failure that makes it unsafe. The town is installing a temporary modular bridge that will reopen the span by next summer. 

GREAT BARRINGTON — A bridge whose sudden shutdown in 2019 snarled driving routes and continues to sow widespread frustration is on schedule to get a temporary replacement by next summer — if the state gives its blessing.

The full length of Division Street will be ready for traffic again with the installation of a temporary, modular one-lane bridge until the town eventually can complete the larger and more involved project of rebuilding a permanent bridge.

Weight limits for trucks that can cross the new bridge still are uncertain, since the town is waiting on state approval to determine that, said Sean VanDeusen, director of the town’s Department of Public Works. He said he will know more in the next four to six weeks.

This month, VanDeusen told the Select Board that local environmental reviews for the modular replacement had gone smoothly, and that once the state approves, the town will go out to bid for construction and installation. He hopes the work will get started this winter.

“Barring any real hiccups with the [state] review process,” he said.

VanDeusen announced in April that engineers had arrived at a plan to demolish the existing bridge and install the temporary one with lights on each end allowing for alternating, one-lane passage. A new sidewalk alongside it also is planned.

The state ordered the bridge, which spans the Housatonic River, closed in September 2019, after an inspection that summer deemed it unsafe for traffic, and set off anxiety for residents and others who relied on it. The crucial link between state routes 183 and 41, built in 1950, already had been rated structurally deficient.

While the full cost of the purchase and installation of the modular bridge is uncertain, VanDeusen previously has said that it likely will remain less than $4 million — that’s how much town voters in 2019 allocated for a full and permanent overhaul.

Given the prospect of a five-year period of permitting and construction of a new permanent bridge, the town sought help from the state for this sped-up temporary solution.

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