Various news outlets have reported that Bellow Falls Officials want to talk with NH about the long awaited repairs to the Vilas Bridge linking Walpole NH and Bellows Falls. However, Douglas Gosling, Administrator for the Bureau of Bridge Maintenance and Mark W. Richardson, PE Administrator of Bridge Design Bureau of the NH Department of Transportation were unaware of any communications from Bellow Falls.
Built in 1930 the bridge was on a list of troubled bridges for more than 20 years and eventually closed in 2009. The bridge was placed on a ten-year plan. According to Richardson, Preliminary Engineering (PE) funds are programmed for Federal Fiscal Year 2013; this is in addition to the PE funds currently authorized for the bridge to initiate the engineering design of the bridge.
There are no Construction funds listed at this time in the draft 10-Year Plan. Richardson believes this means construction work is deferred from FFY 2015 as listed in the previous 10-Year Plan, and is now beyond the limits of this draft 10-Year Plan, i.e., after 2022
This delay of construction is due to the anticipated/potential 30% reduction in Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) funds received by the Department. New Hampshire updates its 10-Year Plan every two years, there is the opportunity to adjust the schedule if additional funds become available.
I expect that this delay in the project is disappointing to the Communities of Walpole and Bellows Falls (Rockingham), and frustrating as well since for the past three years they have been dealing with the traffic consequences of the bridge closure in March 2009. To continue this bridge closure for another 5 to 10 years would be unfortunate, but necessary unless additional funds are identified and allocated.
New Hampshire is responsible for the upkeep of all bridges to Vermont since 1935 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled NH boundary was the low-water mark on the Vermont side of the river.