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Concord solicits proposals to reuse Sewalls Falls Bridge elsewhere

Sewalls Falls Bridge.

Sewalls Falls Bridge.

In the market for a steel bridge?

Concord has one up for grabs. Be warned – it’s a little more than gently used.

The city has asked for proposals from anyone who wants to reuse the Sewalls Falls Bridge, which will be replaced next year with a new 400-foot structural steel girder bridge for about $10 million.

Even when that new span is built, the old red-listed bridge could still have a future, City Engineer Ed Roberge said.

“I think there is a considerable amount of historic value” to the Sewalls Falls Bridge, Roberge said. “We spent a lot of time and effort trying to take care of this bridge and finding a way to salvage it in any way we could. Finding a reuse . . . would be ideal.”

The 100-year-old bridge is fragile, however. Last year, engineers found the one-lane bridge to be safe for passenger vehicles only. Ambulances haven’t been permitted to cross it since August, when its weight limit was reduced to 3 tons.

“Potentially, it could be rescued as a recreational trail bridge or something along that line,” Roberge said.

“It’s not practical to reuse it as a traffic bridge or a vehicle bridge,” he added. Its pieces could also be studied for research, he said.

Approval from the state’s Division of Historical Resources and the Federal Highway Administration was needed to sign off on the plan to replace the historic bridge. Federal money will cover about $8 million, and the city will pick up the remaining 20 percent of the project. In order to use that federal money, Roberge said, the city is required to at least look for a way to reuse the old bridge.

Concord has already begun to “reach out to get this project known, get this bridge known to see if we can find anybody who would be interested in it,” Roberge said.

The city would put what would otherwise be the cost of demolition – about $550,000 – toward any proposal to take down and reuse the structure. Roberge estimated the cost to disassemble the bridge, rather than just knock it down, would exceed that budget by about $200,000. That extra money would have to come from whoever takes the bridge from its current location, he said.

At-large city Councilor Steve Shurtleff, who sits on the city’s heritage commission, said he would like to see a rebirth for the Sewalls Falls Bridge, much like the time a local snowmobile group brought an old bridge from out west and rebuilt it over the Contoocook River for recreational use.

“It has a lot of history, and especially for Concord,” Shurtleff said. “It was designed by a former mayor of Concord and engineer, John Storrs, and it’s often been said that this is the type of bridge that replaced the old covered bridges.”

He also recalled Concord’s historic railroad depot, torn down in 1960.

“It really is a matter of public safety that we have a new 21st-century bridge here, but I think that here in Concord we’ve seen a lot of our history and our heritage destroyed,” he said.

If the city does not receive any interest in reusing the bridge by the end of September, the old tresses will be demolished.

“I’d hate to see it become scrap,” Shurtleff said.

Construction on the Sewalls Falls Bridge will begin next year.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)

Legacy Comments6

It is a disappointment to me that the state of New Hampshire refuses to consider a storage place for historic bridges that can be reused for snowmobile, ATV, and recreational and light vehicle at other crossings. In contrast, Vermont has two bridge storage depots and a number of the replaced bridges have found new uses. Recycling our civil engineering heritage is a good idea. See: http://historicbridges.vermont.gov/bridges-in-storage But NH would not consider setting up such storage depots, citing costs and security concerns. I know this because as a former state representative, I submitted a bill for this. The NHDOT showed up to argue strongly against it, and the historic preservation community was a no-show. With the last of NH's iron and steel bridges being replaced at a rapid rate, perhaps it is too late to consider storage depots now. Still, having one would have allowed to save the trusses of the Sewalls Falls and the Boscawen's Depot Street bridges for future reuse. Future more imaginative generations would have liked to have had the option that Vermont has. ---SWL

Your points are valid and well stated. We spend so much on the Safe Routes to School program to have a staff teach children how to get to school on their bikes safely, which is a colossal waste of time and money, keeping a coordinator and staff doing busy work. We could take that money and establish such storage depots. My guess is that would be too much like work for NHDOT. Take the SRTS staff and reassign them, that would make sense.

Glen Rose, Texas is considering reusing one of two historic bridges for a river path. The 1922 span pictured in the article is actually now in storage. A little imagination means we get to recycle select examples of our state's civil engineering heritage. See: http://www.yourglenrosetx.com/news/local/article_0dea9933-4d99-59f6-96bd-ff314703cd0e.html?mode=image&photo=1

i see no reason for spending money on something that is clearly worn out and needs to be recycled into scrap iron.

Be great to see this bridge salvaged and repurposed in the greater Concord "metro" area. However, I wouldn't put it in the same league as Concord's Boston & Maine train depot. I cherish fading memories of picking up/dropping off our great-grandmother there. She had a free lifetime pass granted from the 30+ years her second husband put in with the B&M RR, and she used it liberally. That depot could've been the crown jewel of not just the capitol city, but the entire state of New Hampshire. I'm obviously still not over the demolition of that majestic structure. Well, what's done is done. I hope they find someone to take the Sewalls Falls bridge, but please...it doesn't begin to compare with the train depot.

An example of a historic Oklahoma bridge successfully re-purposed. http://www.woodwardnews.net/local/x1535387869/Historic-bridge-anchors-renovations-at-Doby-Springs

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