September 02 , 2008


Freetown bridge in need of repair

State finds problem with bridge on Pine Hill Road as towns look for grant money to fix it


Bob Ellis/staff photographer     
The Pine Hill Road bridge in Freetown, where a 9-ton weight limit has been implemented, causing fire trucks and school buses with passengers to make a 6-mile detour to get to the other side of Pine Hill Road.

Staff Reporter

FREETOWN — School buses and heavy emergency vehicles will have to take a detour to reach some homes on Pine Hill Road after an inspection found serious deterioration to the bridge on the road.
The bridge has been yellow-flagged by state bridge inspectors and the only hope for repairs would come through a state grant that the Freetown and Marathon town boards plan to request.
The bridge, which lies on the border of Marathon and Freetown, was reduced in its weight limit to nine tons several months ago. The bridge previously carried vehicles weighing up to 22 tons.
Inspectors performed an annual inspection April 30, and determined the weight limit should be reduced.
According to Freetown Highway Superintendent Steven Strough Sr., inspectors estimated a $400,000 repair cost. Strough said the town could not raise that amount without grant funding.
“Unfortunately we can’t get it repaired until we get a state grant,” he said.
Strough said the bridge had rust corrosion in the supports underneath, as well as substantial deterioration. In addition, concrete portions have fallen into the creek below. The bridge was built in 1940 and is about 60 feet long and about 20 feet wide, Strough said.
Although passable for many vehicles, fire trucks or fully loaded school buses must travel nearly 6 miles around the north end of Merihew Road to reach the other side of the bridge.
David Sturdevant, transportation director for Marathon Central Schools, said school buses could not use the bridge with students on board.
As a result, the routing has been somewhat reversed, he said.
“I have one bus cross empty on the bridge both ways,” Sturdevant said. He added the bus carries about 50 students, but was unsure how many live in the Merihew Road vicinity.
He said students being picked up last on the route would be picked up first, shifting their times by about 20 minutes.
Strough said Town Supervisor Mary Mackey hopes to submit a joint grant application with the town of Marathon.
“With joint grants, we’re told there is a better chance of being accepted,” Strough said.


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