, Gloucester, MA

April 27, 2013

Bridge ramp to be built of wood

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — After considering a temporary aluminum replacement for the section of the Good Harbor Footbridge that was blown away in this winter’s blizzard, the mayor has opted for wood.

Initially, Mayor Carolyn Kirk had provided two options for the bridge — a $65,000 wooden bridge built by outside contractors or a $20,000 aluminum option that could be attached, then folded up and moved when a dangerous storm approaches.

But the Department of Public Works is now stepping up to build the wooden replacement ramp from Nautilus Road to the main bridge as a new temporary solution, at a cost of less than $6,000 for materials.

“The aluminum span idea was worth considering, but I felt I needed some input quickly,” Kirk wrote in today’s Mayor’s Desk column for the Times. “It wasn’t soon after that the responses, questions and ideas started pouring in.”

While many people sent the mayor emails and photos or called in support of a wooden bridge, many noted that $65,000 seemed a bit steep a price to pay an outside company for nostalgia, Kirk said.

”Cost is clearly a factor that is on people’s minds. $65,000 seemed to be outrageous for the (temporary) wooden fix,” Kirk wrote.

In her column, which appears in full on Page 8, the mayor notes that the city needs to begin planning for the permanent bridge solution too, saying the Conservation Commission insists this repair be the “last temporary fix.”

”The city needs to come back with a permanent plan that addresses the resource area, takes into consideration the structural integrity of the rest of the bridge, and perhaps is redesigned to withstand the types of storms and tidal surges we are experiencing,” the mayor said.

Public Works Director Mike Hale said Friday he has already ordered the bridge materials for the temporary design.

He said he expects to carry out the project with a portion of the 16-member public service division, which handles beaches, roads, parks, signs “all the stuff you see,” Hale said. Plus, he said, some contractors from the facilities division will shift their focus to the bridge for about a week in early May.

Hale noted that the public service division, formerly a group of 22 employees, has been trimmed down over the years, meaning the group must set aside their regular tasks when a project like the bridge repair arises.

”There’s a whole host of things we do as just a matter of course during the spring,” Hale said. “We can do this, too. It’s just really going to be retasking these guys off an existing assignment to do the footbridge.

”It’s just about priorities, it’s juggling things,” Hale said. “I can’t get everything done at once.”

With the cost of materials pegged at under $6,000, and Hale having completed all the permitting work himself, saving the city about another $5,000, the city will build up a wooden version about $60,000 cheaper than the price of hiring private contractors to do the work.

The DPW plans to finish the bridge by Memorial Day, Hale said, and can start immediately on making minor repairs on the main part of the bridge and the sand side ramp.

Hale said he expects the city to form a building committee and begin considering plans for the permanent replacement by the end of the summer, giving the city about a year to design and rebuild the bridge as a sturdy structure.

Though the permanent design is completely up in the air for now, the temporary appearance should closely replicate the former build, Hale said.

“It’s the same guys building it now as the guys who built it last time,” he added.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at