Work on Pinedale Avenue Bridge connecting Athol and Orange to resume

Steel plates cover gaping holes in the deck of the Pinedale Avenue bridge, as seen in July 2019. Replacement of the entire span is set to resume next week. 

Steel plates cover gaping holes in the deck of the Pinedale Avenue bridge, as seen in July 2019. Replacement of the entire span is set to resume next week.  FILE PHOTO

Work is set to resume on the Pinedale Avenue Bridge between Athol and Orange later this week, weather permitting. The span was closed by MassDOT in December 2022 due to safety concerns.

Work is set to resume on the Pinedale Avenue Bridge between Athol and Orange later this week, weather permitting. The span was closed by MassDOT in December 2022 due to safety concerns. PHOTO BY GREG VINE

By GREG VINE

For the Athol Daily News

Published: 05-07-2024 4:30 PM

ATHOL – Closed for a year and a half, work on the Pinedale Avenue Bridge is set to resume next week, according to Public Works Director Dick Kilhart.

Kilhart explained that work has been on hold recently as the project’s contractor, Construction Dynamics, awaits approval to move ahead with the installation of 75-foot-long arches for the bridge. Kilhart said that Construction Dynamics will back on location by the end of this week, preparing the site for setting the spans for the bridge. That work, weather permitting, will take place between May 15-17.

“Right now the plan is to prep the site and set those spans toward the middle and end of next week,” he said.

After that, said Kilhart, “There’s backfill and guardrail work and paving work and all of those things. So will people be driving over it by the end of May? Most likely not – but probably not too long after.”

If there is another delay, it will likely be in finding a company to pave the span.

“Paving that span isn’t a very big job,” said Kilhart. “So to get somebody to come out for a small job like that, they’re going to wait until they’re close to the neighborhood so they don’t have to relocate their entire crew for such a small job.”

The state Department of Transportation ordered the bridge shut down in December 2022 due to safety concerns. In June 2022, Athol voters approved a $2.5 million Proposition 2 ½ debt exclusion to pay the town’s 50% share of the project’s cost. The rest is being paid for by the town of Orange through state Chapter 90 funding, according to Kilhart. The debt exclusion also includes funding for repairs to the Fryeville Road Bridge

“We certainly sympathize with the folks who can’t go over that span,” Kilhart said. “We’ve been working as diligently as we can to get that thing open. But, being very cognizant and well aware of the $2 million price tag on that bridge, this bridge has to last for 50 years and we don’t want to do something that would jeopardize that by quickly getting something put in place that could potentially go awry somewhere down the road.”

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The Pinedale Avenue Bridge crosses the Tully River to Tully Road in Orange, with the river marking the border between the two towns. Not only has the closure proven inconvenient for local residents who often use the route to travel between the two communities, it has also presented a safety issue, since Orange residents living just across the bridge from Athol tend to depend on Athol’s fire and ambulance services.

Kilhart also addressed the number of rumors that have spread about the project.

“Athol and Orange did not kick the contractor off the job,” said Kilhart. “Athol and Orange aren’t paying the contractor if they’re not on the job, which was suggested at a recent public meeting. If they’re not there, they’re not getting paid.”

The Pinedale Avenue Bridge’s sister span, the Fryeville Road Bridge, is slated for closure and reconstruction once the current project is completed. The Fryeville Bridge also spans the Tully River, connecting Logan Road in Athol and Fryeville Road in Orange.

The work is expected to cost about the same as the Pinedale project, but MassDOT announced last year that it will pick up the entire cost of the Fryeville Road Bridge. According to Kilhart, design work on the new bridge is already underway.

Greg Vine can be reached at gvineadn@gmail.com.