March 13, 2009
 
Biron Bridge to get makeover

GOFFSTOWN - The Nazaire Biron Bridge on Manchester's West Side is on the verge of getting a multi-million-dollar makeover.

City officials are making plans to rehabilitate the 35-year-old bridge, which spans the Piscataquog River at the point where Kelley Street becomes Pinard Street. The project is expected to cost about $7 million.

Bruce Thomas, the Highway Department engineering manager, said he hopes to have the designs finished by September. Weather permitting, he said, the work could begin in the fall, wrapping up about six months later.

The state is supplying 80 percent of the project's budget, or $5.6 million. Officials said the city would have to come up with the rest.

The city had already put aside some money for the project last year, according to Deputy Planning Director Pam Goucher. A firm, McFarland-Johnson, Inc., has been working on the preliminary designs.

Thomas said the two-lane bridge's decking has been deteriorating as salt and moisture seep into the concrete. The surface is cracked in places and has what could be described as potholes.

"It's serious, and it needs to be addressed," Thomas said. "But it's not a safety issue at this point. It'd probably be several years before it ever became a safety issue."

The railings would also have to be replaced, Thomas said. In addition, he said, the city would need to decide what sort of street lamps to install.

The Nazaire Biron bridge is a main link between Manchester and Goffstown. A recent study found that nearly 17,000 cars cross the bridge each workday.

The Biron bridge holds a unique place in Manchester history. The current span, built in 1974, replaced a bridge that was once featured in "Ripley's Believe It or Not" because of a structural oddity, a 20 degree bend that made driving on the bridge notoriously challenging.

The city built it that way in 1914 because officials authorized the bridge's construction before they had secured the land rights on the west side of the river. Pinardville landowners demanded a high price for their property, so the city decided to move the terminus up-river.

The last time the city worked on the bridge was 12 years ago. Crews replaced the decking then, Thomas said, "and that type of work is supposed to last about 10 years.

"You always hope that it lasts longer," he said, "but it wasn't like we wasted the time then."

Thomas said it's possible the repairs could inconvenience some drivers. Conceivably, he said, the city may have to close down one lane while construction is under way. Another possibility is a detour, an option that Thomas described as unappealing.

"One of the things against the detour option is we'd probably have to detour all the way to the South Main and Varney section, which already has poor traffic conditions as it is," he said.

One way or the other, he said, "We recognize there's a huge amount of traffic going over the bridge, so we'll have to deal with it."





 

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