Bridge replacement to close Popple Dungeon for up to nine weeks

By Shawn Cunningham
© 2022 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Starting Monday June 13, Popple Dungeon Road from Zezza Road west will be closed while the bridge and culvert there now are replaced. Alpine Construction estimates that doing the job will take about nine weeks, although Town Manager Julie Hance says that’s the outside projection and she hopes it will take less time.

A still from a VHB Engineering presentation on alternatives in bridge design given to the Chester Select Board in 2018.

In 2011, the culvert had been damaged by Tropical Storm Irene but the damage was not severe enough to qualify it for FEMA funding.

In 2016, the town knew the culvert over the south branch of the Williams River was failing and installed a one lane temporary bridge while the town applied for a “Transportation Alternatives” grant to replace it with a bridge. The original estimate for construction was $400,000 including a temporary bridge to keep the road open.

The Transportation Alternatives grant comes through the state, but contains federal funds, so the timeline for getting the project under way  is fairly long, and cost increases that came along during that time prompted the Select Board to re-evaluate initial plans to construct a temporary bridge. They decided to close the bridge and detour traffic instead.

Early proposals included working round-the-clock in an attempt to limit the construction period to about a month, not including the dismantling of the temporary bridge. But in the wake of the Covid pandemic causing so much upheaval in the construction industry, the costs ballooned to more than $900,000 and round-the-clock work would have taken the price tag higher.

A one lane, temporary bridge over a failing culvert under construction in the fall of 2016. Telegraph file photo

“It would have been cost prohibitive,” Hance told The Telegraph, calling the finishing date of Aug. 19 a “worst case.” The town bid the job twice hoping to find some savings, but to no avail. The town’s $180,000 contribution to the work is coming from budgeting and as part of paving bonds voted by residents.

One concern that the Select Board has had was with cutting off the west end of  Popple Dungeon Road (as well as Nudist Camp and Williams roads) from direct access by  police, fire and ambulance. Getting to those sections of town would involve driving out Route 11 to Howard Hill Road, then back along Popple Dungeon.

In response, Chester’s Fire Department and Ambulance have made plans for response by mutual aid partners to the west including the Windham Fire Department and Londonderry Volunteer Rescue Squad to help cover during the road closure.

Also disrupted will be a “backroads” motorcycle tour as well as “inn to inn” hiking that have been happening on the road for several years.



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  1. Bill Bourque says:

    I’m probably not the only one shocked that a small bridge over a small stream on a small dirt back road can cost almost $1,000,000 and take up to nine weeks.