BERLIN — The waiting game with respect to what is typically one of Berlin’s busiest town roads is over and the race to replace a failed culvert that has relegated Fisher Road to dead-end street status for nearly a year is officially on.
The time frame is tight, but a voter-approved project that was still stalled when the Select Board met on Monday night isn’t any more.
“We’re rocking and rolling right now,” Zoning Administrator Tom Badowski said shortly after receiving word late Tuesday morning the state Agency of Transportation had signed off on bid documents for the time-sensitive project.
Construction won’t start soon, but the state’s approval — something Badowski was still waiting on when he briefed board members Monday night — will allow the town to take two key steps that have been on hold since voters approved the $1.4 million project in March.
Badowski said a truncated bidding process will soon start and the pre-cast concrete components of what will be a 28-foot long arch-like bridge will soon be ordered.
They need to be, because while Badowski told board members Monday it would take at least five weeks for the structural components to be delivered, he has previously suggested the wait could be closer to 10 weeks.
That was back in April when Badowski first expressed concern that the calendar wasn’t on the side of a project given state restrictions on working in streams before May 15 and after October 15.
Getting a contractor on board sooner rather than later is important and while town officials were initially thinking the bid process could take 30 to 45 days, Badowski said Tuesday it will likely be closer to three weeks.
“We’d like to have bids in hand by the end of June,” he said, noting that probably isn’t possible, but if the project is put out to bid next week contractors can expect an early-July deadline to respond.
Getting at least one good bid at a time when most contractors are already busy will be key to advancing the project and reopening the road that runs past all of the entrances to the Central Vermont Medical Center and one of the entrances to the Berlin Mall.
Removing the structurally compromised 12-foot culvert that funnels Pond Brook under the end of Fisher Road that has been closed since late last summer will be the first order of business and installing the new concrete arch, which will arrive in pre-cast pieces, will be the second.
The town’s engineer has estimated the work could take three months, installing the arch can’t begin until the pieces are delivered and removing the rusted out culvert too much in advance would create a gaping hole in the road.
The state’s sign-off was initially viewed as a formality, but it didn’t come until two weeks after the board secured the easement it needed from a property owner in exchange for $30,000.
Badowski seemed surprised by that Monday night and was relieved on Tuesday when the wait he couldn’t explain ended.
“At this point it doesn’t matter,” he said. “Now we’ve just got to get it done.”
Until it is, the Route 62 side of Fisher Road will remain open and the Paine Turnpike North end will remain closed.