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The Bridges of Essex County

I'm just really worried that it's not going to make it and will have to be shut down. It would devastate the region economically, and cause turmoil in people's lives, said French.

French added that people who used the bridge needed to contact their state and federal representatives to underscore the need for a safer structure.

County bridge replacement plan showing benefits
In general, the bridges owned by Essex County are in sound condition.

Were in pretty fair shape. Essex County has a good rating, said Essex County DPW Superintendent Fred Buck.

According to Buck, the county has been pursuing an aggressive bridge replacement program for several years. At any one time about five bridges in the countys 132 bridge inventory are in some phase of rehab work or examination. The county completes about two bridge projects annually.

The bridges, which are rated on a 7 point scale, average about 5.5, one point above the state average. Currently there are five structures that are closed, four of which have been shut down permanently due to redundancy. One structure, the River Street Bridge in Chesterfield, is currently being studied for repair.

There are three open bridges with a rating of less than four: Cold Brook Road, in St. Armand, Otis Road, in Elizabethtown, and Cemetery Road, in Keene.

Buck said one of the main problems for bridge replacement comes from funding difficulties. On the state level, money collected from gas and oil taxes that are allotted to highway maintenance are often diverted to help balance the budget.

If they would leave the dedicated highway funds for highway and bridges, wed be in better shape, said Buck.

The county recently completed the contentious Jay Covered Bridge replacement project, which took twenty years while addressing sometimes contentious concerns from town residents. On Aug. 6 the county board passed a resolution to name the new structure the Essex County Emergency Services Volunteer Memorial Bridge. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime this autumn dedicating the new bridge and Douglas Memorial Park.

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