By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Northborough–The town will not pursue a temporary fix to the Otis Street bridge, officials said during the Board of Selectmen’s Jan. 12 meeting. They added that a temporary fix would only delay a permanent replacement, which remains on schedule to be completed later this year.
Department of Public Works Director Dan Nason told selectmen that design and engineering work on the construction of a new Otis Street bridge over Hop Brook is completed and that the town will begin seeking bids from contractors starting Jan. 15.
That will give officials time to review submissions and create a solid budget figure to take to Town Meeting in April. Past estimates have put the cost to replace the bridge at close to $1 million.
The bridge has been closed since July 2014, after an accident damaged guardrails and exposed above-ground utilities and subsequent inspections by state and local officials determined it was not safe for traffic. Though a winding back road, Otis Street is a heavily used cut-through to Route 9.
The town had already identified the bridge as a candidate for replacement and voters at the April 2014 Town Meeting approved $114,000 to design a new structure.
The closure of the bridge has been a sticking point for some residents and business owners and has raised public safety concerns.
Fire Chief David Durgin said the town has put mutual aid agreements in place to have Westborough cover calls on the southern side of Otis Street, but acknowledged that response times are longer than they would be if the bridge were open.
“We have to go all the way around,” he said, adding that average response times of 6.4 minutes to the south end of Otis Street could be reduced by one to three minutes with the direct route open.
Resident John Fouracre asked the board to give the temporary option more consideration, citing the public safety concerns. But Nason said in all the options examined by the town, a temporary solution – complicated by the presence of the brook – would have delayed the permanent repair.
Durgin said the temporary options looked at would not have had the weight capacity to handle most of his department’s fire trucks anyway.
“There’s nothing more that can be done right now,” said Town Administrator John Coderre. “This project can’t be done any faster.”
If the project is wrapped by the fall, the bridge being out for a year to 18 months represents a relatively fast turnaround for a bridge ordered closed for safety reasons, Nason argued.
“Usually a bridge like this could be closed for three to four years,” he said, adding that even if the bridge had not been ordered closed, it would have been out of commission while it was replaced.