PLAINFIELD — The Select Board has sat down with the engineering firm it picked to design the replacement of a troubled bridge in town.
Milone & MacBroom, engineering consultants from Waterbury, inspected bridges on Mill Street and Brook Road a few years ago and determined they weren’t wide enough to handle major rainstorms, suggesting the town would need to widen the underpasses of the bridges to allow water and debris to flow through smoothly in the event of a flood.
The Brook Road bridge suffered serious storm damage twice in less than five years — most recently in the summer of 2015 — and is considered the higher priority of the two.
As part of its analysis, the town teamed up with the University of Vermont, which used drones to get a bird’s-eye view of the Great Brook. The photos taken before and after a major storm showed the movement of logs and debris down the Great Brook and where they got stuck.
At a special meeting Wednesday, the board met with representatives from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., an engineering firm based out of Burlington. The board picked VHB to do the design and permitting work for the project. The town is using a grant it received from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the design. The budget for the design is $92,617 and the grant has a 25 percent match from the town that was worked into the budget voters approved on Town Meeting Day in March.
The plan is to replace the bridge with a wider one to allow water and debris to flow through easier without getting stuck and causing flooding.
Milone & MacBroom is consulting on the design of the project. Board member Tammy Farnham said while she recognizes the bridge needs to be addressed, she wondered if anything could be done to stop debris from flowing into the village in the first place.
“I’m just concerned with the amount of debris in that brook,” she said.
Board chairwoman Sasha Thayer brought up a project recently completed in Barre where structures were installed to catch debris on Gunners Brook for flood mitigation.
Ray Shiff, an engineer with Milone & MacBroom, said there isn’t much room to put such structures in that part of the Great Brook. Shiff said if the town did install those structures it would have to constantly maintain them so they don’t get filled up and alter the flow of the river which would be difficult in that area due to lack of space.
Officials discussed the permitting process and other aspects of the project. The current schedule for the design sees VHB starting in on surveying the area next month. VHB plans on coming up with a list of alternatives for the town to decide on for the project by August. The firm would then submit a final design in November. The permitting process is expected to take from October to January.
When the bridge will finally be replaced is up in the air. The town doesn’t have any funds set aside at the moment. The plan is to take the final design for the project and use it to apply for grants.
The current estimate for the bridge replacement is $1 million.
Scott Burbank, director of structures for VHB, said the town will likely be ready to apply for funding around July 2020. But he cautioned the town against applying for funding then because most construction contractors will already be booked. He suggested the town apply for funding in the fall of 2020 and then putting the project out for bid so the town gets more competitive bids for construction in the summer of 2021.