Suncook River bridge is safe but needs work

Monitor staff
Published: 8/23/2019 6:07:26 PM
Modified: 8/23/2019 6:07:12 PM

One of the bridges spanning the Suncook River, at the town line of Pembroke and Allenstown on Route 28, is on the red list, meaning it needs work soon.

Don’t panic, though. The Department of Transportation says it’s safe and will remain that way until a repair project – which should take about six months to finish –  moves forward, sometime in 2021. One lane will be closed during construction for two-way traffic. The decision to strengthen the bridge or replace it will be decided at a later time.

Meanwhile, DOT representatives will soon attend regularly scheduled meetings in each town to provide information on what exactly is being planned. The Allenstown meeting will be held on Monday at 6 p.m. at the town hall; Pembroke residents can attend their meeting on Sept. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at town hall.

At those meetings – marking the first time the DOT will present its inspection findings – plans will be discussed pertaining to “the options for the rehabilitation or replacement of the bridge,” according to a press release issued by the DOT.

“We’ll meet to discuss the things we proposed to do to the bridge,” said David Scott, the project manager who oversees the DOT’s design staff. “We expect the most input to be focused around traffic control.”

Scott said the two upcoming meetings were scheduled specifically to provide town officials with details, with subsequent meetings planned to allow townspeople to relay their thoughts “to ensure that project decisions meet public transportation needs, community goals and protect and enhance the environment,” the DOT release said.

“There could be input from (the public) at those first meetings,” Scott said, “but the goal is to get the information to the public officials and then come back for another meeting to address the concerns of the public.”

Scott explained the standard procedure involved when determining how strong and safe a bridge is. He said inspections take place every two years, at which time a rating system is used to grade different sections: the deck, the superstructure – which pertains to the main piece supporting the span – and the substructures.

 A nine rating means a new bridge, zero a bridge that must be closed. The Suncook River bridge’s deck received a four, Scott said, putting it on the DOT’s red list. Once a bridge lands there, inspections take place every six months. In this case, a change was needed.

“It’s safe, but we want to be more attentive to their needs,” Scott said. “This has risen to the top of our rehabilitation and replacement list.”

A decision will be made later, after the town meetings have concluded. Replacement refers to installing a new deck and new steel girders; rehabilitation means replacing the deck only.

But Scott said replacement is the better, cheaper option, since new steel would not need a paint job, while the old steel, left in place, would.

“If we need to paint it, that would be really expensive,” Scott said. “We can get new steel under the bridge for less money than it would cost to paint. The cost savings is not significant, but when all is said and done, it’s cheaper to get new steel.”

The process begins Monday with the first meeting, in Allenstown. Town administrator Derik Goodine chose to reserve comment until after the meeting, saying, “I have not talked to the Department of Transportation yet. I know they are possibly closing it down to one lane.”

The bridge, known as a three-span bridge, was built in 1958. Scott said 2021 construction would probably run from April to October.

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