Last week's Halloween storm destabilized a bridge that connects South Burlington and Williston, closing the busy span for the "foreseeable future," officials said.
The bridge in question crosses the Muddy Brook where Kimball Avenue becomes Marshall Avenue, a stretch that is home to several technology and industrial parks. The closure, though, has forced drivers to detour onto Route 2, an already heavily congested commuter thoroughfare.
“It’s a nightmare,” South Burlington City Councilor Meaghan Emery said of the traffic issues, noting that her husband works along Kimball Avenue. “I know firsthand that this is taking a toll.”
Officials in both towns had already been working on replacing the bridge, which was a temporary span put in place after a 2017 flood wiped out the original structure. But the joint project wasn't scheduled to be finished until 2022. The latest storm damaged the temporary bridge's culvert, leaving it unstable.
Informed that the bridge would need constant monitoring to stay open, local officials are now scrambling for a solution: Can they patch up the bridge enough to open it, or must it be removed and completely replaced?
“It’s hard for even a non-engineer to look at that and believe it can be repaired,” South Burlington City Manager Kevin Dorn said. “I don’t think the odds are favorable.”
A new bridge would cost an estimated $2 million, according to Williston Public Works director Bruce Hoar. The municipalities already have a design in hand, but because the initial plan called for a 2022 completion date, the money isn't yet available, Hoar said.
It's possible the feds will pay for at least a temporary fix because the road is considered part of the Federal-Aid Highway Program, based on its importance to the area, Hoar said.
Local officials are unsure when the bridge could reopen. “I don’t have any definite dates beyond 'until further notice,'" South Burlington Public Works director Justin Rabidoux wrote in an email.
Municipal officials plan to meet with VTrans in the coming week to discuss next steps. Rabidoux and company said they expect to know more after that meeting.
Until then, the municipalities are looking at altering the traffic light patterns through town to alleviate some of the traffic issues, Emery said. And the city councilor is urging people to consider alternative transportation methods, like carpooling or taking the bus.
“It’s going to not be just a short, little moment of inconvenience,” she said. “This is something that we’re going to really have to troubleshoot.”