NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

June 9, 2014

Walton Road closed tomorrow

SEABROOK — Walton Road will be closed to traffic for 10 hours tomorrow while the state Department of Transportation removes the abandoned railroad bridge that spans the roadway.

According to NHDOT spokesman Bill Boynton, demolition requires Walton Road to be closed from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. as the state crews remove the bridge superstructure, which includes only the steel stringers and ties. Jersey barriers will be put in place with the removal of the span.

The Eastern Railroad Bridge was abandoned in April 1982, according to Boynton, and the NHDOT purchased the bridge from Boston and Maine Corporation (PanAm) in February 1996. The bridge has significant structural deficiencies, he said, and is considered unstable in its current condition.

A local teen recently fell off the bridge when he lost control of his mini-bike while riding on the abandoned track, which many use as an informal recreation trail. The boy broke his ankle, causing worry that such an incident could be repeated, since the bridge span over Walton Road has no side railings or barriers.

The bridge, however, is a portion of the old railway system that many in town, including selectmen, hoped will be built into a formal recreation trail, like those in Salisbury and Newburyport. Annual clean-up expeditions have been mounted to remove litter and debris, and a number of fundraisers have taken place to acquire the money needed to remove the old railroad tracks and put down a hard surface that could be used for walking and biking.

When asked if the recent accident motivated NHDOT to act swiftly and take down the span over Walton Road, Boynton replied that the state transportation agency has intended to remove this bridge for years.

The bridge, which is on the state-owned portion of the Hampton Branch Railroad, has been the topic of correspondence between DOT and town officials since 2007 over concerns for the safety of the bridge and its removal, Boynton said. Funding for the removal was identified and escalating safety concerns expedited this project, he said.

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