Residents voice concerns on are red-listed bridge

WILTON – The small bridge on Stagecoach Road has been red-listed by the New Hampshire Department of Transportation for several years. It has a weight limit three tons and the town’s emergency vehicles will not cross it.

However, it could be another five or six years before the state will fix it, so town officials are considering closing the bridge.

On Monday, about 20 people attended an hour-long informational hearing on the idea. Most of those who spoke were in favor because of speeding by people who use the road as a shortcut and the general condition of the road, but there was concern about response to emergencies.

Fire Chief Jim Cutler said his department had timed various routes from the fire station, and going around “adds about three and a half minutes” to the trip.

Selectman Kermit Williams discussed how state bridge aid works – the state would reimburse 80 percent of the costs – and discussed other options, such as having a private firm do the work as was done at Frye’s Measure Mill.

But what exactly is wrong with the bridge remains in dispute. Officials and several residents have spoken with various DOT officials, and they did not all get the same answers.

Some said it was the decking, but Public Works Director Jim Lavacchia said that had been recently replaced.

Others said it was the abutments, or the substructure, and current codes would require a wider space beneath the bridge to accommodate both a flood and wildlife.

Asked about cost of replacement, Lavacchia said he had consulted with “a secondary contractor for an estimate of a total replacement” of the bridge. He said it would possibly be $200,000, including $19,000 for engineering and about $85,000 for materials. He said the abutments have been impacted by “scour,” or water undercutting the supports and that was the state’s concern.

Resident Mitchell Young said he favored making the span a pedestrian bridge because of the traffic and several other agreed with him.

Members of the Robinson family said they would be most impacted by a closure, being the closest to the bridge, and wanted it kept open. They said the current bridge was built in 1940, repaired in 1960 and again in 1996, and said, in a winter storm, they “could be stuck” because of the condition of the hill to Davisville Road.

Residents agreed that “it is a special place.” They like the quiet and the country atmosphere.

Resident Tom Schultz presented an opposing view: closure would mean the loss of another road and the town has already lost one, making it dead end because residents didn’t like the through traffic.

“We have roads for reasons, and they are public roads, used for transportation and not private driveways,” he said.

The Select Board agreed that weight limit signs should be more visible, posted at both ends of the road, and that the 25 mph limit be posted and enforced. They also said replacing the decking would not get it off the red list.

Selectman Matt Fish said the road would remain a Class 5, meaning the town will be responsible for its maintenance.

No further action will be taken until officials consulted with DOT, determined exactly what the concerns are, and what should be done.

Chairman Kellie-Sue Boissonnault said all the comments “would be taken under advisement.”