Shutdown of Great Barrington bridge to impact 2 other communities

By Heather Bellow, The Berkshire Eagle GREAT BARRINGTON — The shutdown of a key bridge Friday morning already is causing hassles for motorists here — and the impact is expected to extend to two other communities as truck traffic is diverted to alternative routes. Trucks that typically travel south on Route 41 after exiting the Massachusetts Turnpike in West Stockbridge no longer will be able to use the Division Street bridge to avoid a low railroad underpass in Great Barrington.

So, the town will route that traffic to Route 102 through West Stockbridge and Stockbridge, and then to Route 7, en route to Great Barrington and points south, according to Sean VanDeusen, director of the town’s Department of Public Works. Trucks also could take Route 102 to Route 183, but that would take traffic into Housatonic village, which he discourages. And, he said, the situation could last 2 1/2 years or more, until the Division Street bridge can be replaced permanently or repaired.

Another option, a temporary repair or span, could cut down on the overall detour time, but still, the extensive permitting could take a year to obtain. The town last week announced the closure of the 43-foot span over the Housatonic River, which has been rated structurally deficient. VanDeusen said he isn’t sure when the Department of Transportation previously inspected the town-owned bridge, though agency data shows that the most recent inspection was performed in July 2017.

Pedestrians and bicyclists still will be able to use the bridge. The DPW already had secured £4 million from voters at annual town meeting in May to cover repair or replacement costs, and engineers already were working on plans when the DOT said that the bridge, built in 1950, had multiple failures to its stringers and deck.

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“There were several zeros,” VanDeusen said of the ratings. “You can’t get much worse. “It was 70 years of letting it get to this point,” he noted.

He said he hopes that, in the future, trucks will stay away from Route 41 — and Division Street — where trucks should never have been going. “It’s only a three-minute difference,” he said, having compared the two routes. One local business owner said last week that he believed it is truck traffic that has worn out the bridge.

VanDeusen said the DPW will work as quickly as possible on a careful solution. “We don’t want to rush in and make a mistake,” he said. “We want to do the right thing.” Heather Bellow can be reached at or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.

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