Businesses Fret Details of 19-Month Bridge Fix

NEWPORT CITY – Individuals concerned with the replacement of the Long Bridge met with city and project officials at the Newport City Council Room yesterday afternoon.Work will start March 5 and will be complete around Oct. 18, 2013, 19 months later. Workers will typically be on site from 6 a.m. to about 5 p.m. However, there might be times when workers want to remain on the jobsite later.The majority of public concerns came from business owners in Railroad Square. John Robillard from Poulin Grain wanted to make sure his company would be able to operate during construction. The contract states that Poulin Grain will coordinate with the contractor, Reed & Reed General Contractors from Woolwich, Maine, so that there are flaggers when feed trucks are coming and going, said Carolyn Carlson, Structures Project Manager for the Agency of Transportation.Newport City Manager John Ward Jr. asked if it’s possible to temporarily remove the traffic islands in Railroad Square so traffic could have better access to Poulin Grain. However, Chris Craig, resident engineer with the Vermont Agency of Transportation, wasn’t keen on the idea. He said he didn’t see what difference it would be if there are flaggers.George Azur, owner of Azur’s Mini Mart, said removing the island might make it easier on his customers. Removing the island would require a traffic design, said Craig."What we’re hoping is that once the detour is in place, we take time to evaluate what’s going on,” said Carlson. She said it could work out fine or there might be problems. “One of the things we discussed was we may have to adjust the timing on traffic lights. It’s one of those things you don’t really know until it happens.”Changing the traffic light sequence would be a good idea, Azur said. Greg Pecue from Bond Auto Parts expressed concern that customers may have a difficult time getting to his store. He also said company vehicles leave all day to make in-town deliveries. The contractor is supposed to keep access to the business open, said Carlson, who added that the only time there might be a problem is when crews start placing steel.“I don’t think you’re going to have a lot of problems here because the bridge will be closed,” said Mark Buckbee from Reed & Reed. “Basically, that will be your personal driveway for you and Poulin.”“Road construction is not painless,” said Craig. “It’s not going to be better than it is now; it’s going to be worse. We’re going to do the best we can for you, but it won’t be without pain.”About 16,000 cars a day use Main Street, Ward said.Some suggested those who work in the construction zone use the parking lot at the Emory State Office Building. However, that’s something Vermont Building and General Services would have to approve. Several project officials looked at Carlson, who said she wasn’t aware of the property.Buckbee also promised that his firm would deal with individuals concerned that equipment is in the way.Mike Paradis, of Newport Ambulance Service, wanted to make sure ambulances won’t get tied up in traffic. There should be no problem, said Carlson.The project doesn’t seem to worry Newport City Fire Chief Jamie LeClair too much. “It is what it is,” he said. “We’ll do the best we can to get to the west side of town.”Buckbee reassured LeClair there would be an emergency plan.Leonard Gerardi, from the Fish and Wild Department, brought three areas of concern to the table. One is the seasonal work constraints, which is part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' permit. Anyone having an issue with that should work with him.“Because it was not really a river project, it kind of deviated a little bit,” said Gerardi, who said there is usually some type of sentiment erosion control plan attached to the permit. “I would need to be in the loop for a sentiment erosion control plan. Basically there is going to be containment of in-lake disturbance areas.”Gerardi is also concerned with vegetation reef plans. Buckbee said he understands the seasonal work constraints from March 31 to July 1. The intent, he said, is to do the appropriate thing during the appropriate time.