MassDOT: Steel pieces hanging from Brown Bridge in Great Barrington nothing to worry about

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GREAT BARRINGTON — About two weeks ago, someone called police to report several pieces of steel hanging off the underside of the Brown Bridge on Route 7, an aging state-owned span over the Housatonic River.

But, everyone can rest easy — those pieces are not crucial to support the bridge, according to the state Department of Transportation, which regularly inspects bridges to ensure safety. The previous inspection was in June 2017, according to the agency.

But, word had spread, and residents are uneasy at the sight of what appears to be disrepair.

"This could be very serious," said Nick Diller, who called The Eagle to report it.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Sean Van Deusen said he was notified as well. And he wrote the state's local bridge engineer, Mark Devylder.

Devylder said he would send a crew to inspect it.

The pieces of steel are lateral braces used during construction, said Judith Riley, a spokeswoman for the state DOT.

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"The braces are used to keep the trusses straight prior to the placing of the bridge deck," Riley wrote in an email Friday. "The steel hangers have been noted by MassDOT and have been scheduled for removal ... these braces are not needed to support the structural integrity of the bridge."

The 119-foot steel truss bridge, built in 1931, was rated structurally deficient during a 2015 inspection. Its superstructure is rated at four, which is "poor condition." Its substructure and deck are rated six, which means "satisfactory."

The bridge carries 18,000 cars and trucks daily, according to MassDOT.

Riley previously said that the agency gave the bridge a boost in 2009 that would allow it to carry more weight. That year, workers also repaired the North Low Chord, "the controlling element of the bridge."

There are no plans to replace the bridge, but more work is scheduled. Riley said a repair project will go out to bid this summer, and also will include replacement of 11 of the 16 lateral braces.

In 2015, $1 million in state money to paint the bridge was transferred to upgrade the Bridge Street bridge, since new real estate projects on that street were on the horizon, including the expansion of the Berkshire Food Co-op, now underway.

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


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