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Sewalls Falls Bridge to close for repairs

  •  A truck starts across the Sewalls Falls Bridge; Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    A truck starts across the Sewalls Falls Bridge; Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • The crumbling Sewalls Falls Bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span. Photographed on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    The crumbling Sewalls Falls Bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span. Photographed on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  • The crumbling Sewalls Falls Bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span. Photographed on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    The crumbling Sewalls Falls Bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span. Photographed on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.

    ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

  •  A truck starts across the Sewalls Falls Bridge; Wednesday, July 3, 2013. The bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • The crumbling Sewalls Falls Bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span. Photographed on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff
  • The crumbling Sewalls Falls Bridge will be closed for several days next week for repair work on the roadway on the west side of the span. Photographed on Wednesday, July 3, 2013.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

The roadway approaching the Sewalls Falls Bridge is falling apart. The bridge across the Merrimack River will close while it’s repaired next week.

A section of concrete in the approach to the bridge failed last week, leaving a hole in the deck. Crews repaired that spot, but also inspected the bridge. Several other spots were also close to failing, said City Engineer Ed Roberge.

“The pavement condition is not the best on that approach span, and it’s really because of the concrete that’s beneath it,” he said.

So next week, Roberge said crews will “chop those areas out and replace those.” The work includes replacing the failing concrete and adding steel reinforcements. The bridge will be closed Monday at 7 a.m. through Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

Though the city plans to tear down and replace the 1915-era truss bridge, it could be a few more years before that work begins. Meanwhile, the bridge needs additional repairs to remain usable.

“It’s in tough shape,” said City Manager Tom Aspell.

Roberge said he’s also evaluating whether to reduce the load limit on the bridge.

“It seems like every time I visit the city council, they ask me is it safe and can we keep it open,” he said. “There’s caveats to that, and one may be that we make a recommendation to down-post it.”

He’ll wait to make that decision until next week’s repairs are done. The one-lane bridge currently has a load limit of 10 tons; it’s previously been downgraded from 20 tons and 14 tons. With a 10-ton limit, Roberge said an ambulance is “the upper-end limit of that weight load.”

Engineering studies have shown that the bridge is in a state of disrepair.

“The existing conditions of the roadway and bridge result in safety hazards for the traveling public and segments the recreation trail systems that exist on both sides of the bridge as noted above,” states a May report from CHA Consulting Inc.

Earlier this year, the city council voted to replace the bridge rather than rehabilitate it. But officials have not yet begun designs for a new bridge.

The federal government will fund 80 percent of the project. The Federal Highway Administration still must grant approval for the project to continue, and must review the impact of removing the historical structure.

(Laura McCrystal can be reached at 369-3312 or lmccrystal@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @lmccrystal.)

Folks, it's time. This "Historical Structure" is a giant rusty rattletrap, and it is still used daily, hourly even. The article states: "Earlier this year, the city council voted to replace the bridge rather than rehabilitate it. But officials have not yet begun designs for a new bridge." OK, what's the holdup? Where are all the beautiful designs the Monitor printed a few years ago? Maybe someone could hold a "design-the-bridge contest" and see if the bright, intelligent, talented folks of Concord (I'm biased, I know) can't come together and submit some drawings for the new bridge.

Yes, spending money on a new bridge is a LOT more important than making downtown prettier. Folks, where are your priorities? We're talking safety here!

Well, we all know how City and State management reacts to a hazard, somebody has to die before they do anything. That's the way it is in the big city.

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