By DIANE BRONCACCIO
Thursday, September 10, 2015
(Published in print: Friday, September 11, 2015)
CHARLEMONT — Two weeks before school buses would have rolled across the bridge on West Oxbow Road, heading to and from Route 2, a state Department of Transportation bridge inspector ordered the bridge closed to traffic. But by working together, state, town and school officials have been able to put plans in place for a temporary bridge to be installed before winter.
Mohawk Superintendent of Schools Michael Buoniconti says demolition of the closed bridge, which was deemed unsafe for traffic on Aug. 24, could start today, so that plans can be made to put a temporary, partially prefabricated bridge into place before winter hits.
The paved West Oxbow Road eventually becomes the unpaved East Oxbow Road; but detouring the school buses to East Oxbow, to reach children living above the closed bridge, would be difficult in winter when that stretch of the road sometimes has to be closed.
About six school-age children live above the bridge, according to Charlemont Selectmen’s Chairwoman Beth Bandy. Also, a dialysis patient living above the bridge depends on public transportation for medical treatment, she said.
Working with MassDOT District 1 Director Mark Moore, Senate President Stan Rosenberg, state Rep. Paul Mark and state Sen. Benjamin Downing, Bandy and Buoniconti were able to get assurances that MassDOT will install a temporary bridge, possibly by mid-October, according to Buoniconti.
Downing sent a letter saying he had spoken to a Sandri Oil representative and to the Franklin Regional Transportation Authority, to make sure oil trucks and a medical van could travel up East Oxbow at least until winter.
Meanwhile, the town Highway Department has regraded East Oxbow Road to make the road as smooth as possible during the time it is to serve as a temporary detour for the Hawlemont and Mohawk school buses.
In 2012, the closure of the Heath Road Bridge in Colrain forced the Mohawk Trail Regional School District to add a four-wheel drive van to its school bus services to get students to their schools along the narrow roads of the detour.
Originally, the estimated $1.3 million bridge repair was expected to start in 2018. Now the town website says the bridge has been closed indefinitely.