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Public hearing will discuss bridge replacement

By Jennifer Sawyer

Staff Intern

The town of Hampden will host a public hearing next week in regard to the projected Chapin Road Bridge replacement project. The project will replace the structurally inadequate Chapin Road Bridge over Scantic River.

The hearing will be open to the general public, and take place June 15 at 7 p.m. The event is to occur in the auditorium of Town Hall, located on 625 Main Street, Hampden. Structural plans for the bridge will be on display for a half hour prior to the beginning of the hearing. An engineer will be on hand to answer any questions regarding the pending project. Land acquisitions will also be discussed.

According to Dana Pixley, Hampden Highway Superintendent, the Chapin Road bridge was built in 1956. With the current weight laws, the structure is not strong enough to carry very heavy vehicles, creating the problem of illegal traffic flow over the bridge. The current structure is a posted bridge, meaning it has been inspected and deemed substandard by the Massachusetts Highway department. The bridge was posted on April 9, 1982.

Pixley explained that the bridge is currently strength-rated as H-15, meaning the bridge can carry vehicles weighing up to 15 tons. The existing norm for bridges is H-20, allowing for the passage of vehicles weighing up to 20 tons. The Chapin Road bridge's restriction of weight creates problems for large vehicles. Heavy trucks, utility autos, and 5-axel vehicles are restricted from passage.

"Aside from the disruption of traffic flow, the bridge, when done, will be a real relief for anyone who lives in the area," explained Pixley. "It will be opened up to any construction vehicles, allow for a safe passage of school vehicles and general commerce, which is a very good thing."

Another problem lies with the detour route if the bridge were to be closed. Currently, there is no detour route less than 10 kilometers distance, Pixley added. The Highway department explored different ways to replace the bridge because of the unacceptable detour route, finally settling on the current plans.

The project will include the replacement of superstructure I-beams and upper bridge deck, along with sidewalks and railings.

The new structure is in accordance with ADA Title II regulations, which states that state and local governments must protect disabled individuals from discrimination on the basis of accessing different services, at all times preserving their safety. The bridge's sidewalks and ramps will be handicapped accessible.

Following the public hearing, the next step is for the town to receive easements from the landowners located near the bridge. After that step is completed, the project will go out to bid in September, and then immediately begin constructional drafting and design. Pixley is hopeful that the contractor will be bonded by December of this year, and that construction will begin a year from now.

Those unable to attend the hearing are invited to contribute via written statements to comment about the planned construction and surrounding area. Remarks may be submitted to John Blundo, P.E., Chief Engineer, Massachusetts Highway Department, 10 Park Plaza, Boston, MA 02116.

In the event of inclement weather, cancellation announcements regarding the meeting will be announced on the MassHighway website,