ATHOL – A month after ice jams smashed the underside of the Exchange Street Bridge, the town has hired a Methuen-based contractor to repair the damage.
Town Manager Shaun A. Suhoski said officials hope the company will complete repairs to a water main conduit and its fasteners attached to the underside of the bridge within three to four weeks to allow the bridge to reopen.
State inspectors deemed the Exchange Street Bridge secure during an inspection several weeks ago, but Athol officials kept it closed while they determined whether reopening it would jeopardize the town water main.
The bridge is one of the primary routes over the Millers River in downtown Athol.
The town awarded the repair work to MC Industrial Services, a division of Methuen Construction, for about $73,000. Mr. Suhoski said it was the lowest of three quotes he received.
Athol’s Department of Public Works superintendent requested assistance from the state Department of Transportation for the emergency repair, he said.
“With Exchange Street being a primary response route for police, and the water main being a key component of the distribution system and fire flow protection, it is of paramount importance to make the repairs promptly and re-open the roadway,” Mr. Suhoski said.
He said the town is working with its insurance company to determine if any of the damage is covered.
Early on Jan. 13, large steel brackets securing a 12-inch town water main to the underside of the bridge were damaged when ice broke up and traveled down the river, jamming up at the South Main Street Bridge and raising fears of flooding.
A housing complex for elderly people near the river was evacuated as a precaution. The residents were allowed to return home a few days later. Firefighters and town officials monitored the Millers River for weeks after that.
The water main was isolated and no customers are without water, Mr. Suhoski said.
The town was already working with the state on a $2 million reconstruction project for the bridge before the ice damage, Mr. Suhoski said. The matter will go before voters at a special town meeting March 5.