Schell Bridge ‘summit’ set for Thursday

 

Greenfield Recorder 10/27/2014, Page C01

Rosenberg, Mark expected to attend, give update

By DAVID RAINVILLE Recorder Staff

NORTHFIELD — New developments will soon be announced for a 111-year-old bridge.

Area legislators and state officials will gatherThursday to give updates on the future of the Schell Memorial Bridge. The public is encouraged to attend the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in Northfield Elementary School.

State Sen. Stan Rosenberg and State Rep. Paul Mark are expected to attend, as well as representatives from the state Department of Transportation and Department of Conservation and Recreation, the Franklin Regional Council of Governments and the Northfield Selectboard.

In May, the DOT announced plans to demolish the longclosed steel cantilever truss bridge and replace it with a bicycle bridge modeled after the 1903 structure.

The news was well-received by the Friends of Schell Bridge, a local group dedicated to the preservation of the bridge. Though the group had lobbied for the bridge’s rehabilitation, members were glad to hear that its legacy would be preserved in a new recreational river crossing.

Members also felt that the replacement bridge would have a better chance for funding than the costly rehabilitation of the original bridge, which had severely deteriorated over the years.

The DOT proposed that parts of the original bridge could be used in a park at either end of the new bridge.

In August, town officials were pleased to hear that the DCR would take ownership of the bridge. The Selectboard had worried that the town would be on the hook for costly maintenance and repairs, and was relieved that those would be the responsibility of the DCR, as well as any liabilities associated with the structure.

“Add to that the completion of Northfield’s Master Plan, and there is a wonderful momentum building that envisions a vital Northfield — a destination for recreation, and a thriving place to live and bring up families,” said Steve Tower, chairman of the Friends of Schell Bridge.

The new bridge could be a boon to area businesses. It would enable the completion of a three-state bicycle route, likely bringing in recreational tourists.

A 2011 University of Massachusetts study funded by the Friends of Schell Bridge stated that a rehabilitated bridge could bring the area more than $8 million in tourist revenue over a 10-year period.

The bridge was open for vehicle traffic until 1985. Iron plates were subsequently welded across its portals and the bridge was slated for demolition.

That demolition never came, giving the bridge a chance at a second life.

In August, a DOT spokesman said the project would cost about $5 million from soup to nuts, and would befunded with 80 percent federal money and 20 percent state funds.

You can reach David Rainville at:drainville@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 279On Twitter, follow @RecorderRain