WEST NEWBURY — The town will receive a $1 million MassWorks grant to help pay its share of replacing the crumbling Middle Street bridge over the Artichoke Reservoir.
On Wednesday, Selectman Rick Parker, Town Manager Angus Jennings and state Rep. Lenny Mirra, R-Georgetown, were in Hopedale when Secretary Mike Kennealy of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Economic Development announced West Newbury’s MassWork grant.
It is one of three Infrastructure Program Small Town Assistance Grants awarded this cycle, totaling $2.8 million. Grants for Hopedale and Gosnold rounded out the total for road and bridge improvements.
The Middle Street bridge, built in 1891, has been closed since July 2018 after the partial collapse of a southern retaining wall. The span connects the town to Newburyport, and the closure has resulted in a 3.4-mile detour.
That detour restricts access to Anna Jaques Hospital from West Newbury and impedes the designated emergency evacuation route from the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire.
The design, survey, and engineering for the bridge — referred to as the Plummer Spring Road bridge in Newburyport — are on schedule to be completed in April 2021.
Construction is projected to start in August 2021 with a completion date of May 2022. The work will include precast guardrail transitions, bridge realignment and road widening. The project will likely cost more than $2 million, according to the civil engineering firm BSC Group.
The job is complex because the bridge spans a source of drinking water, requiring additional permits and presenting hurdles for construction. The depth of the water means extensive coffer dams would be built to provide a dry area for the work, and the poor soil conditions around the bridge require added pilings for support.
The current roadway — measuring 16 feet in some spots — is fairly narrow, yet the area is a popular spot for fishing, biking, horseback riding and walking. It is a heavily used commuter road in a part of town with many pedestrians.
Newburyport previously received a $500,000 MassDOT Small Municipal Bridge Grant for the design and some construction. The two communities will split the remaining costs equally.
As part of the grant application process, nearly two dozen letters of support for the project were submitted by local residents and officials, including Newburyport Mayor Donna Holaday.
Selectmen Chairman David Archibald praised “the superb collaboration” on the proposal from Sen. Bruce Tarr of Gloucester, Mirra, Gov. Charlie Baker, Newburyport officials, Jennings and West Newbury Public Works Director Wayne Amaral.
“Working together paid off,” Archibald said.
“The award is absolutely critical to the communities’ ability to bring this important project to timely completion,” Jennings said.
Mirra said, “It’s vitally important to have this bridge repaired so that we can continue to have this much-needed additional access between Newburyport and West Newbury.”
The state received 92 applications requesting more than $223 million. West Newbury’s was one of 36 successful applications in the 2019 grant round. The $1 million award was for the maximum amount available for a single project.
Information about the bridge project can be found on the DPW page of the town’s website: www.wnewbury.org.