It didn’t take the Board of Directors long Tuesday to decide it did not want the state’s money to help it rebuild the Spring Street Bridge over Birch Mountain Brook.
With little discussion, the board unanimously decided not to take advantage of $701,664 in state bond funding that would have allowed it to build a new bridge along Spring Street that can carry traffic in both directions, instead opting to utilize its own funds to make improvements to the existing one-lane bridge.
Estimates for the project would have required the town to spend as much as $2 million of its own funds, coupled with the $701,664 from the state, to construct the new bridge while also renovating the existing bridge strictly for pedestrians and bicycles.
Repairs to the existing bridge will cost the town an estimated $600,000, which it will have to pay for entirely out of its own funds.
Still, one by one directors said they supported renovations to the existing bridge as opposed to a new construction because it would save money in the short term and preserve one of the town’s most distinct roadways.
“That’s a really special part of our town that is different. I don’t know too many other towns that have a one-way street there where only one vehicle can go,” said Deputy Mayor Leo Diana, a Democrat. “I think it’s all our duty to preserve and I’m glad we’re all on board with it.”
The Board of Directors authorized the Spring Street Bridge project in 2007, but the state didn’t get around to until December of 2010, when most town leaders had long stopped holding their breaths that the money would materialize.
“No one was more surprised as I in the closing days of the Rell administration that the town got a letter out of the blue saying we were granted $700,000 in funding for this,” said Mayor Louis Spadacccini, a Republican.
Public Works Director Mark Carlino said a repaired bridge would not have as long a lifespan as a new bridge – he estimated 15 to 20 years at the most – and would require continuous maintenance, which could conceivably end up costing the town more money in the long run.
General Manager Scott Shanley noted that the one-way bridge has seen eight accidents since 2000.
Still, directors almost uniformly said they wanted to preserve the existing bridge and character of the road.
“It’s probably one of the key things if you were to make key spots in the town of Manchester,” said Rudy Kissman, a Democratic member of the board. “That spring area, the bridge area, and the Highland Park area would be one of those things that would be on a calendar.”