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Old bridge a puzzle to replace

Old bridge a puzzle to replace

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The county Route 113 bridge project keeps getting more complicated.

First, Washington County had to replace a crumbling bridge historic enough that the new design had to mimic the original. The bridge crosses the Batten Kill between Easton and Greenwich.

Then Hollingsworth & Vose weighed in. The company’s mill is just feet away, and the company needs water to keep flowing throughout the project. That could make construction more complicated.

If that wasn’t enough, the bridge might be an archaeological site, too. Preliminary research has suggested the site was an active Native American location, and an archaeologist will likely be on hand throughout the construction, to look for artifacts.

Public Works Superintendent Steve Haskins said research indicated remnants of a structure might be nearby.

“It may indicate that there were some inhabitants there,” he said, adding that those inhabitants were not necessarily Native Americans.

“But the area is well known as an area that Native Americans had lived in,” he said. “You don’t just go in there and disturb potential historic sites.”

The Department of Transportation will determine how digging will be handled, said Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. Project Manager Edmund Snyder. The company is helping the county design the project.

Among other things, the Transportation Department will contact Native American tribes that may have lived near the bridge.

“The tribes will make a determination whether they want to be part of excavation,” Snyder said.

He doesn’t expect any findings to stop the project, he said.

The plan must also keep workers safe while they dig.

“H&V can’t have water flow interrupted,” Haskins said. “It will be a challenge. Not an insurmountable challenge, but it will be a challenge.”

One bright spot: The water is shallow in that area, Snyder said.

“The stream already has a dam, so where the bridge is, the water is very shallow — we’re talking ankle level,” he said.

Workers will build cofferdams to create dry areas in which to work, while not stopping the entire river at once.

And then there’s the design itself. The state Historic Preservation Office must weigh in on whether it should look like the stone triple-arch that is there now.

“We’re waiting for SHPO to give us input or direction,” Haskins said. “The design is not progressing. They may tell us the new bridge has to be an arch bridge.”

Snyder noted how rare triple arch bridges are today.

“That’s not something too common nowadays,” he said.

But, he said, there’s no chance the preservation office will say the crumbling bridge can’t be demolished and replaced.

“The bridge is in very poor condition,” he said.

The goal is to design the project in 2016 and do the work in 2017.

The project is funded through a $6 million federal grant.

You can reach Kathleen Moore at 742-3247 or kmoore@poststar.com. Follow her on Twitter @ByKathleenMoore or at her blog on www.poststar.com.

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