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October 3, 2013

Rebuilt Rocks Village Bridge opens

School buses, other traffic can end longer routes

WEST NEWBURY — Say goodbye to detour signs and hello to the rebuilt and reopened Rocks Village Bridge.

The latest chapter in the tale of two local bridges has concluded. The new Groveland Bridge spanning the Merrimack River and connecting Haverhill to Groveland opened two weeks ago after several years of construction.

Now the state has reopened the Rocks Village span connecting West Newbury to Haverhill.

The historic bridge is used by residents of West Newbury, Merrimac, Haverhill and several southern New Hampshire towns. The bridge had been closed to traffic since June 18, 2012, to allow work crews to do $14.1 million in renovations.

The span was originally expected to reopen in late August, but workers ran into unexpected problems this summer with the mechanism that opens the bridge for boats to pass underneath.

The delayed reopening meant vehicles that would normally use the bridge, including school buses, had to continue using alternate routes. Because of that, students riding buses to nearby Whittier Regional High faced longer rides than usual during the first month or so of school.

The bridge, built in 1883 and rebuilt in 1914, was closed to traffic on June 18 of last year, forcing drivers who used the 812-foot span to find alternate routes. The state installed detour signs in various locations to help drivers find other routes.

Whittier Regional High had to change several of its bus routes during the last school year due to the bridge being closed. Whittier Superintendent William DeRosa said the change affected four Whittier buses.

DeRosa said the four buses that used the bridge were rerouted, adding about 20 minutes to both the morning and afternoon trips.

He said three of the four buses are back to using the bridge again, while a fourth bus will continue using the alternate East Broadway route. He said it is more convenient for that bus than crossing the bridge because there is always a lot of bus traffic near Pentucket Regional High School.

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