WILLIAMSTOWN -- The state has required the town to bring the two lanes of the Hopper Road bridge down to one.
Public Works Director Timothy Kaiser said Wednesday that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation Bridge Division is concerned about deterioration found in the supports for the outermost beams on both sides of the bridge.
"The state agency wants the vehicle loads removed from these [two] beams to the center section of the bridge," he said. "This bridge is entirely safe. This is a precaution."
The plan the state has recommended, and that the town will implement, involves installing guardrails on either side of the bridge’s deck, he said. The guardrails will be mounted on metal posts that will be bolted to the deck directly above the next two beams in from the ones with deteriorating supports. Taking that approach will not only allow for trucks to continue to use the bridge, but it will lift weight limits that are currently in place, he said.
The Hopper Road bridge, which crosses the Green River, was originally privately owned as part of the Mount Hope estate. Construction of the bridge has been traced back to at least 1927, and it was given to the town by Williams College. The bridge provides access from Green River Road to residential properties on Hopper Road and the Williamstown side of the Mount Greylock State Reservation.
Kaiser said vehicles turning off Green River Road onto Hopper Road
"That is pretty much standard practice now, even though the bridge has two lanes," Kaiser said.
The guardrails are expected to cost about $16,000 and are being paid for through the town highway department’s budget, he said. It hasn’t been decided if the town will seek reimbursement from the state for them, he said.
Reducing the Hopper Road bridge to one lane is being seen as a short-term fix by town officials.
Kaiser said he understands from MassDOT is that the bridge is scheduled to be replaced in federal fiscal year 2014, with advertising for the project intended to be in December 2013.
Even though the town owns the bridge, it falls under the jurisdiction of MassDOT because its span is greater than 20 feet, he said.
As a separate project, the town plans to have fencing put around the wing walls of the bridge, which are in poor condition, he said.
"A lot of people use [Mount Hope Park], and we want to keep people a safe distance away from those walls," Kaiser said.