Consultant says repairs to Hotel Bridge in Leeds could be reduced to about $500,000

Last modified: Tuesday, June 02, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — A consultant told about 60 people who attended a community meeting Monday night about the historic Hotel Bridge in Leeds that a new plan could cut the estimated cost of its restoration in half — from about $1.1 million to roughly $500,000.

Julie Bowers, project manager for Workin’ Bridges of Grinnell, Iowa, which conducted an engineering study on the bridge in March, said dismantling the bridge and repairing it on land across the street would result in the lower cost.

Debated during the hour-long meeting at the Leeds School was whether the bridge could be opened to pedestrian and bicycle traffic for the summer while the city and the Leeds Civic Association, which has led efforts to restore the bridge, pursue funds for a full restoration. Workin’ Bridges and the civic association advocated temporarily reopening the bridge, while Edward Huntley, director of the city Department of Public Works, expressed concern about the safety hazards and costs involved.

Workin’ Bridges is the second firm to study the bridge. Last summer, a study by Stantec Consulting Service Inc. of Northampton — funded by a $35,000 Community Preservation Act grant — found the bridge to be unsafe and in need of extensive repairs totaling $1.5 million.

Though the bridge had technically been closed, the Department of Public Works fenced it off after the Stantec Study was released.

The Stantec and the Workin’ Bridges studies both initially suggested that the bridge would need to be repaired in place, which would involve expensive machinery. However, Bowers said Monday that there is potentially enough space across the street on the land of Alternative Recycling Systems to place the bridge as it undergoes repairs.

“I took a look at the site, and it looked a lot bigger without your piles of snow around it,” Bowers said. “I thought that we could pull this bridge of and perhaps put it in Alternative Recycling right across the road.”

The repair on land would lower costs to around $500,000, according to Bowers, though her team would have to further study on that option to give a more precise estimate of the cost. That research would cost $1,000, Bowers said.

Huntley said the city does not currently have that $1,000, though he expressed support for repairing the bridge on the ground.

“I don’t have any funding for that. I’d have to find the funds in my budget somewhere, or the city would have to approve it through the cash reserves,” Huntley said in an interview after the meeting.

Heidi Stevens, vice president of the civic association, said it has over $5,000 in its bridge restoration fund. Stevens said the board would discuss using this money to hire Workin’ Bridges to research the costs of repairing the bridge in the open lot.

Bowers also presented two “repair to reopen” options that would allow the bridge to reopen for the summer while funding for longer-term repairs is sought. One option, estimated at $13,700, would reopen the bridge with an 8-foot-wide pedestrian and bicycle lane, while the other, estimated at $20,300, would include asphalt patches to the bridge decking.

“I would say open it up and let you use it. The city has other concerns,” Bowers said at the meeting. “I don’t think you need to do much more than replace the section of guardrail that’s missing to open it back up and grandfather it back to the way it was.”

But Huntley said he was not satisfied with those options, and expressed concern about the asphalt patches, the deteriorating panels underneath the bridge, and its overall strength.

“Workin’ Bridges would open it tomorrow. I’m not putting my professional liability on that,” Huntley said in an interview after the meeting. “What if someone fell through the bridge, and I was the one that said it was OK to be on it?”

Huntley and Bowers said they would continue to explore ways to open the bridge for the summer.

“I support the project, I worked through the process with the CPA grant, and I look forward to doing something on this at some point. I just don’t have the time frame and there’s no funding right now,” Huntley said during the meeting.

If the DPW and civic association secure funding for any repairs, there will be a bidding process in which the “lowest qualified bidder” will be selected to do the work, according to Huntley.

People who attended the meeting said they are hopeful that the city will be able to restore the bridge.

“I used to walk across this bridge not that many years ago,” said Gary Roodman, who has lived in Leeds for 13 years. “We have a close community here, and the bridge is something we’ve taken pride in.”


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