February 15, 2012STARK — The board of selectmen recently selected H.E. Bergeron Engineers (HEB) of North Conway as the engineering consultant for the estimated $1.1 million project to rehabilitate the iconic covered bridge over the Upper Ammonoosuc River.
HEB was one of three competing engineering firms to submit their qualifications. In a final step, HEB's selection was then approved by the state Department of Transportation (NHDOT).
The Northside Road Bridge, as it's officially named, was built in the mid-1800s. It is now one of the state's most photographed covered bridges, which is especially noticeable in the fall foliage season.
The bridge is on the 'Municipal Red List' of those in need of repair and also listed as 'Structurally Deficient' in the National Bridge Inventory.
"We look forward to working closely with the Town and the community," said HEB president and principal engineer Ed Bergeron in a prepared statement. "The project will include public input opportunities. This is a unique opportunity, and we're excited to begin. Given the number of stakeholders and community interest, HEB will solicit public input throughout the design process. We will also provide regular updates on our website for people interested in our progress."
The first public hearing is set at 7 p.m. on Feb. 29 in the Stark Town Hall, according to project engineer Jason Ross of Gorham. "We want feedback," Ross said.
The bulk of the rehabilitation costs will be paid through a $904,000 federal National Historic Covered Bridge Preservation Program grant, administered through NHDOT State-Aid Bridge Program. The Paddleford-style truss bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is one of the few remaining covered bridges of this style still in use in the Granite State.
The state is committed to paying 80 percent of the remaining 20 percent, with the town of Stark paying the final 20 percent, expected to be in the $45,000 range.
Only a very rough timetable has been worked out, Ross said.
Data, including current condition, as well as input from stakeholders, abutters and historic experts, needed to prepare a design that the state approves, will likely be completed over the summer, in anticipation that the project could go out to bid in December.
If all goes as planned, workers would be on site in late spring 2013 and continue to work steadily over the summer, with the hope that the bridge would be ready for drivers, walkers, and photographers when the leaves turn brilliant colors in late September.