FRANCONIA — The Pleasant Street bridge is set to close due to an extensive amount of damage to the decking which was uncovered by state officials during an inspection this spring. “It’s bad,” said Gardner Deputy Chief John Bernard. “There’s a serious concern for increased accidents (due to the closure) — even for pedestrians.”
Because of the damage, the state has lowered the bridge’s weight limit from six tons to three. Three tons is about the weight of one large pickup truck or two small cars. “Two pickups crossing each other on the bridge would be in violation,” he said. The bridge is on the end of Pleasant Street near Route 2A, at the top of the hill near Greenwood Street.
There is a $200 violation for drivers who violate the weight limit, according to Deputy Chief Bernard. However, as the Police Department doesn’t have the resources to have an officer continually oversee traffic on the bridge, the city traffic commission decided to close the structure. “I don’t feel the city had many options,” said the deputy chief.
Repeatedly exceeding the weight limit, according to officials, could result in the bridge collapsing, which would be devastating for both drivers and the train tracks underneath. Closing the bridge will be orchestrated by the city’s Department of Public Works and the police department. Notices have already been mailed to commercial companies in the area who may have used the bridge — although many of these businesses should have redirected delivery routes around the bridge when the six ton weight limit was put into effect in the fall.
Similar to the majority of bridges, it is under the control of the state, according to Deputy Chief Bernard. The state has said it has no plans to fix the bridge until April 2019, but added it could be longer due to funding shortages. Officials are hoping the state may fix the bridge sooner because of the threat it poses to the railroad tracks. “Diverting traffic for that number of years may cause serious problems,” Deputy Chief Bernard said.
The bridge is considered a high-traffic area in the city, according to the deputy chief, and rerouting traffic is likely to cause significant congestion on the rotaries and the downtown area.