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Bridge back in town; assembly required; Gilbert Rd. span may reopen in 2 months.

Byline: Bradford L. Miner

WARREN - The Gilbert Road truss bridge, removed in 2004 for repair, was gone so long some local residents had doubts the historic bridge across the Quaboag River in West Warren would ever be reopened.

Now the iron trusses have returned from their extended stay in Ohio, and the bridge is being assembled between Route 67 and the barricades blocking the approach to the river.

Adam Hurtubise, spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation, said once the trusses, supports and deck are put together, the bridge will be hoisted by a crane and set in place.

Once that task has been accomplished, the bridge deck will be topped with asphalt, the barriers removed and Gilbert Road reopened, perhaps within the next two months, Mr. Hurtubise said.

Sylvia G. Buck, library director, local historian and chairman of the Warren Historical Commission, has spearheaded efforts from the outset to have the bridge repaired in such a way as to maintain its historic design characteristics.

Once the deadline had passed for the return of the trusses, Mrs. Buck would periodically check with the state Highway Department's district engineer for a progress report.

As for the evidence now that the bridge is being reassembled, she quipped, "I'm from Missouri. Show me the whole bridge and I'll believe it."

Mrs. Buck said it was shortly after her last contact with the state highway officials that pieces of the bridge began showing up.

"I expressed grave concerns and enormous frustration, because in fact the first talk of restoring this bridge dates back to 1997 when it appeared on a rehabilitation list. Initially the work wasn't supposed to take that long," she said, noting that state highway officials believed the trusses would be back in spring 2004 and the work completed shortly after.

Mrs. Buck said she asked how it was that those responsible for awarding the contract were unaware that the company they selected did not know how to do the work.

"The company repeatedly requested extensions in the deadline for completion of the work, and apparently in one request admitted they needed to figure out a way to successfully weld the wrought iron. They came up with a plan, and then that plan had to be approved by Mass. Highway officials, and so that contributed to much of the delay," she said.

According to state highway officials, the Ohio subcontractor had determined that the method used to weld the wrought-iron trusses had failed to pass tests and that the damaged bridge components would have to be replaced with modern materials that replicated the 90-year-old components.

Mrs. Buck said that the bridge is eligible to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Berlin Iron Bridge Co. built the bridge, also known as Crossman's Bridge, for $2,175 in 1888. It is one of eight remaining lenticular pony truss bridges built in Massachusetts during the late 19th century.

In 1889, there were at least 69. Sometimes known as "cat's-eyes" or "pumpkin-seed" bridges, they are so-named for their unusual lens shape, and were considered fast and simple to erect.

The delay has increased the cost of the bridge project. The initial construction estimate was $393,907 and the current cost is $601,620. That figure is $65,000 more than the bid price.

ART: PHOTOS

CUTLINE: (1) Parts of the Gilbert Road truss bridge wait to be assembled. (2) The bridge sits alongside Route 67 as it is assembled.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff Photos/DAN GOULD
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 2, 2008
Words:584
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