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Route 3 bridge slated for big repairs

July 03, 2020
MEREDITH — The "POW/MIA Freedom Ride Bridge" over Route 3 will receive some much needed repairs in the next few years and representatives from the state are talking with the town about the coming project.

Phillip Brogan with the Department of Transportation spoke with the Meredith selectmen during the June 15 meeting about a project to rehabilitate the Route 3 bridge over Maple Street named the "POW/MIA Freedom Ride Bridge." Brogan said the state is in the "very preliminary design stages" of the bridge restoration project and they hope to come back with more details later this summer.

Brogan said this will be a preservation project.

"This bridge is nearing the end of its service life, but it can certainly be preserved and this project will probably give it another plus or minus 15 or 20 years of life," Brogan said.

The bridge was constructed in 1947 and rehabilitated in 1983, with work including sidewalk repairs and rail expansion. The bridge sees an average of 17,000 vehicles per day, though those numbers are closer to 25,000 a day in the summer and around 12,000 in the off season.

Brogan said the bridge deck is deteriorating with potholing and cracking. The joint repair done in 1983 is at the end of its serviceable life, the sidewalks are badly cracking, and the granite curb is separating from the concrete sidewalk. Brogan said the bridge bearing is badly rusted with spalling on the concrete beams below it. The drainage system has severely deteriorated with a pipe practically disintegrated.

Brogan said the pavement will be torn up and the concrete below will be repaired as needed including the deck, the beams, and the abutments. The bearings don't need replacing, but they will be cleaned and have paint removed. The granite curb will be replaced with a concrete curb. The joining will be repaired and the guardrail on the southern side will be replaced. Additionally new drainage structures will be installed and the sidewalk will be repaired.

Brogan said traffic control during the project is going to be difficult considering that one lane at a time will have to be closed off and how much traffic that bridge receives. One option is to put in a temporary signal to allow cars to move on that one lane at a time. Brogan said this could cause traffic backups so they will do the project in the off season.

Another option is to allow northbound traffic to proceed as normal over the bridge and create a detour of approximately half a mile on the southbound side using local roads.

Each phase of construction will take around six to eight weeks for a total of 12-16 weeks, though Brogan said that could be narrowed down when they get closer to a final design.

Brogan said the state will hold a public information meeting later this summer, though the DOT has been struggling to schedule such meetings because of the pandemic. The project will likely be advertised in January of 2021 and go for governor and council approval around April of 2021. Considering the work being done and the peak traffic season, Brogan said they could start work in the late fall of 2021 or the spring of 2022.

Selectman Jeanie Forrester asked with the condition of the bridge if it would last until 2021. Brogan said the bridge isn't on the Red List and they are doing this project to keep it off of it a bit longer.

Town Manager Phil Warren said he would want to put this project, namely the traffic rerouting options, to staff before making any suggestions on this.

The DOT is aiming to hold the public meeting sometime in August. Warren said he would get that feedback from staff and will give his opinions then.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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