New bridge in the works: East Street structure in Southampton coming down

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  • A crew from Sessler Bridge installs temporary planking over the Manhan River during demolition work on the East Street bridge in Southampton on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A crew from Sessler Bridge cleans up material from the west shore of the Manhan River in Southampton during its demolition of the East Street bridge on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A crew from Sessler Bridge installs temporary planking over the Manhan River and under the East Street bridge in Southampton last Thursday during demolition work on the bridge. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • In this view looking west, a crew from Sessler Bridge works on the demolition of the East Street bridge over the Manhan River in Southampton on Thursday, Dec. 9, 2021. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 12/12/2021 1:47:58 PM
Modified: 12/12/2021 1:47:22 PM

SOUTHAMPTON — Demolition of the East Street bridge, which spans a major thoroughfare near the town center, is underway.

Replacement of the bridge is the first step of a larger effort to completely reconstruct East Street, said Southampton Highway Superintendent Randall Kemp. While the replacement of the bridge will cost approximately $2.6 million, the total cost of the entire reconstruction project is estimated to cost an additional $4 million.

“East Street is a critical transportation corridor that connects the center of town to the city of Holyoke. This 2.6-mile corridor extends from College Highway (Route 10) to County Road (Holyoke town line),” Kemp said.

The project has been long in the works as the Select Board expressed a desire to rebuild the nearly 90-year-old bridge for several years, having earlier sought a rebuild in 2009. Besides feedback from residents, the town had also received recommendations from a 2018 Pavement Management Report prepared by Pioneer Valley Planning Commission that identified East Street as one of four roads in Southampton in the poorest condition. The report also recommended a full reconstruction of East Street.

“We opted for replacement of the entire bridge structure in order to provide a complete structure upgrade to current standards,” Kemp said. “The first logical step is to replace the bridge in order to widen it sufficiently to allow for a pedestrian/bike lane so that the road rebuild does not funnel pedestrians to a bottleneck at the bridge where they would be competing with traffic to cross within the travel lanes.”

Southampton was originally awarded a $1 million MassWorks grant to rebuild the bridge in 2017. Based on the original estimate given to the town, it was assumed that the MassWorks grant would cover the entire cost of the replacement, but a new estimate came in at $2.6 million, Town Administrator Ed Gibson said.

“Then we had to go through all the hoops and phases of trying to determine if that would be the actual cost and ask for an extension on the MassWorks grant, and then we had to get the debt exclusion … It has been an ongoing process,” Gibson said.

Registered voters approved a $1.6 million debt-exclusion override at a special Town Meeting in the fall of 2019. Acton-based construction firm MIG Corporation, Inc. was awarded the project with a bid of $2,037,426.

The town also has applied to the State Transportation Improvement Program to get onto its schedule for funding to cover the $4 million-plus project.

Although the East Street bridge wasn’t necessarily structurally deficient, Kemp said that it was functionally obsolete and in need of repair. To upgrade the bridge rails to current crash-rated standards would have required a portion of the deck on each side to be reconstructed as well as replacement of the bridge rails to accommodate the required loading, which would leave a narrow portion of the deck in the middle of the bridge untouched, he said.

With the replacement of the bridge, improvements include much-needed engineered drainage and realignment where necessary. There also will be new sidewalks dedicated for safer pedestrian access, sufficient travel lane widths for safer vehicular access, and the necessary shoulder widths to accommodate cyclists.

With the plans for a Greenway or potential extension of the Manhan Rail Trail into Southampton that would cross East Street approximately 900 feet west of the bridge, the concern for pedestrian safety has become more pressing, Kemp said.

The bridge, which crosses the Manhan River, was closed in November to remove the gas, electric, phone, and water lines from the bridge before its subsequent demolition. Holyoke Gas & Electric did some directional boring under the river and fed the gas line under the river, so it will not have to be reinstalled on the bridge, Gibson said.

Detour signs and barricades have been installed and motorists must use alternate routes in the area.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been delays in the project, including permitting and reviews taking longer than anticipated at the state level, Kemp said.

Work will continue through the winter and include excavation and backfill of abutments, installation of piling, pouring of new abutments and wing walls, stabilization of bridge slopes and fabrication and erection of structural steel.

Kemp said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the project will be completed by next summer.

Emily Thurlow can be reached at ethurlow@gazettenet.com.

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