TOWNSEND — Both private parties that own land being taken for easements for the rebuilding of the Wheeler Road bridge over Willard Brook have signed off with the town, and selectmen are expected to sign one of the deeds at their Sept. 22 meeting, according to Town Administrator Greg Barnes.
Special Town Meeting voters this month approved use of $2,500 for the easements following appraisals. One of the landowners, the Amadon family, waived compensation, Barnes said. The other property’s owners accepted a $1,001 reimbursement.
“We expect construction bids for the $1.79 million to be sent out by the state in early October, with a construction start next year. The project is expected to be complete by the end of next year,” Barnes said this week.
Some federal approvals must still be acquired, and there must be an act of the Legislature to convert ownership of state land to the town.
The bridge was incorrectly built partly on state land to begin with, Barnes explained.
“I’ve been working with (Rep. Dan) Rizzo and the Department of Conservation and Recreation, and have already drafted special legislation,” Barnes said. “The conversion can be done after construction starts and will not hold up progress.”
The Wheeler Road bridge, part of a shortcut between Ashby and Townsend, was closed to traffic March 31 after a state inspection revealed some of the fill that holds the northern abutment was missing.
The span has had structural problems over the years. A little more than one year ago, traffic was limited to one lane, which forced drivers on opposite sides to take turns crossing. It’s owned by Townsend but overseen by the state.
A new steel bridge will be constructed closely following the existing alignment, but different enough to demand the taking of easements. According to state project manager Adam Hoey, the proposed bridge will have a curb to curb dimension of 29.5 feet, with a five-foot sidewalk built on the north side.
Non-emergency vehicular traffic has been detoured down Route 119 to Route 31, adding about 4.5 miles to commute from Ashby to Townsend.
Fire Chief Don Klein worked with the Ashby Fire Department to provide fire protection to the Ashby side of the bridge, with a Townsend tanker and pumper. The closest Ashby station is 5 to 6 miles away.
A dirt road beside the bridge has been widened enough for four-wheel-drive EMS vehicles to use. Instead of retiring Townsend’s Engine Four as planned, it will be housed in a barn on the Amadon Farm property under control of Donny Amadon, a Townsend firefighter.
Amadon’s two brothers, both former firefighters familiar with the vehicle, are available if needed. Donny will be the only person authorized to drive it. Selectmen signed an insurance agreement for the move in April.