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Main Street road work loses one of its detours; Many bridge projects loom in the wings.

Byline: George Barnes

ATHOL - Getting downtown from uptown will be a little easier tomorrow when a bypassed section of Main Street reopens.

Since this summer, motorists looking to drive downtown from the east side of the city have had to either take a twisting, complicated detour over Chestnut Hill Avenue and Crescent Street, or shoot down School Street, rather than going down Main Street.

Town Manager David Ames said he expects that section of Main Street to reopen and the detour to be removed tomorrow, improving access to the downtown. There will still be construction to contend with, but one major detour will be eliminated.

As part of the Main Street reconstruction project, the section of the street from Chestnut Hill Avenue to Crescent Street was closed this summer to both repair that section of roadway and rebuild a retaining wall that separated the road from the Millers River. The wall is across from L.S. Starrett Co. After work was started, it was decided also to repair a bridge over the B&M Railroad in the same area.

The $5.47 million reconstruction of Main Street is about 48 percent complete and will continue into next year. It includes 2.2 miles of repaving, sidewalk replacement, signal upgrades and water and storm drainage work. The section between Chestnut Hill Avenue and Crescent Street was a major piece of that work.

The road has been temporarily paved, but full paving is expected to be completed next year.

As the state continues in its work on Main Street, the town is also looking forward to the start of several bridge projects.

The state is in the final stages of seeking a contractor to replace what is known as the South Main Street Bridge over the Millers River. The 137-foot bridge, built in 1922, is best known in town as the starting line for the annual Athol to Orange River Rat Race. It has been on the state's list of bridges to repair or replace since 1995 when an inspection found the walls were severely deteriorated. Since then, pedestrian access to the bridge has been limited to the south side and the width of the travel lane has been restricted to reduce weight on the sides of the bridge. The project is expected to cost $5,889,000. It will include the installation of a temporary 134.5-foot steel bridge during construction.

The town will have longer to wait for the replacement of two bridges on Chestnut Hill Avenue just north of where the road meets Main Street. One of the bridges, a 104-foot span, goes over the B&M Railroad tracks. The other is about 110 feet long and goes over the Millers River. The $1.5 million project to replace both bridges is in the preliminary design phase. Work is expected to begin in the winter of 2013-14.

Safety improvements on Route 2 in the Athol area are mostly completed, but the state is planning $4.4 million in preservation work on the bridge over South Athol Road. The town had hoped the state would build an entrance and off-ramp in that part of Route 2 when it was doing safety improvements to the highway, but the work was not included. The state has said that work is slated to begin in the spring.

Further west on Route 2, the state is planning to replace the Lake Rohunta Bridge on the Athol-Orange town line. Replacing the 53-foot bridge at a cost of $1.5 million is expected to begin this winter or in the spring.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Nov 13, 2007
Words:595
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