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The Yankee Express

Dudley’s French River trace bridge ready for demolition

A road closed sign has become a familiar sight to Dudley residents. Finally, a bridge that spans a dry trace will be demolished and replaced with a temporary crossing until a permanent one can be built.


Residents of Dudley have been waiting for what seems eons for their bridge to reconnect to the roadway that links Hill Street of Webster to Chase Avenue of Dudley. This particular span hasn’t been usable for a number of months and those who used the crossover for their daily commute from Route 395-South to Lake Parkway and School Street to Hill Street have finally resigned themselves that this route is no longer possible and won’t be for a while longer. So frustrating to have to change a habit, isn’t it?  
Actually, it’s more than a habit. It’s a way to circumnavigate the knot of traffic that is always stopped along Webster’s Main Street to commute to Dudley. 
There are four routes that Dudley residents can use when driving south from Auburn/Worcester/the Mass Pike. Route No. 1 would be exiting the Cudworth Road-Webster ramp and wending your way south on Route 12 to Cemetery Road to Bigelow and South Main to the bridge behind Calvary Cemetery to Dudley. The second choice is the Route 16 exit to the East Main Street lights which would bring you to the heavy traffic congestion on Webster’s Main Street. Thirdly, your option would be the last Webster exit to follow the aforementioned Lake Parkway route unless you live in the extreme south end of Dudley in which case your fourth selection would be navigating Lake Parkway to its end and then taking a left to Snow’s Corner and a right onto Perryville Road which would bring you to Route 12-Dudley.
It’s a crazy deal which most commuters realized was best travelled via Hill Street and over the two French River bridges to Dudley. Perhaps some commuters don’t watch their TV’s local access channel or attend the Dudley selectmen’s’ meetings in order to be best informed about the status of the bridge updates as their highway superintendent has been very diligent about keeping the selectmen and TV watchers well-informed. Oh, wait a minute, I guess most of them don’t watch and/or don’t care except to complain on social media about what is going on with that dang bridge. I suppose I could expound about citizen apathy but that’s for another time. Let someone else do it, right?
According to Jeff Murray, Dudley’s highway superintendent, the bridge spans what is called a dry trace which means there is no water passing underneath the structure. It is an overflow passage in the event of future flooding from the French River which passes under the Webster span with the French River being the official dividing line between the towns of Dudley and Webster. 
Demolition of the Dudley bridge will begin this month. After this happens the town must come up with funding for the temporary bridge that will be installed. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts Dept. of Transportation (DOT) has a temporary bridge that Dudley can borrow but still requires Dudley to put together a funding plan for the permanent span.  A full replacement cost according to the Mass. DOT is approximately $6,235,000 and that’s in today’s dollars. Federal funding could come in very handy at this point. 
The new structure would be designed and built by the Mass. DOT and outsourced to a private contractor without using local funds. The DOT has also recommended replacing the Webster bridge, which was built in 1923. As with all state and federal projects, however, there is a waiting list and, of course, every town and city feels that their project is the most important and should be pushed to the top of the priority list. The Dudley bridge project must be approved by the Mass. Project Review Committee which is comprised of members from the Mass. DOT. They are in charge of rating the importance, the funding, the designing, and then putting out to bid each and every project.  “It’s not a quick process,” said Mr. Murray. “We’ve involved our state senator and representative to move this along and have been unsuccessful. There have been funding opportunities as well but they fell through. We’ve explored other funding sources as well but it’s a very slow-moving process. The project is now in the hands of the Mass DOT and the Federal Highway Administration. As another example of the approval and construction process we have the Dudley/Quinebaug bridge which has been on the Mass DOT list since 2017-2018 and it’s just moving to the top of the list with that bridge replacement scheduled for fiscal year 2024-2025.
“There are many varying factors used for facilitation. The permanent solution is a very lengthy process. The Chapter 90 funds of $148,500 which we would customarily use for our town’s road resurfacing projects will now be directed to the demolition and temporary bridge for the dry trace bridge so we can open up access again.”  
If local residents really care about and wanted to move the permanent bridge project along in addition to requesting funding for it, they should get in touch with their State Senator Ryan Fattman who can be reached at (617) 722-1420, [email protected] or their State Rep. Peter Durant (617) 722-2260 [email protected]  Locals can also contact their federal representatives: Rep. Richard Neal (202) 225-5601, Senator Edward Markey (202) 224-2742, and Senator Elizabeth Warren (202) 224-4543.  
Now what’s that old saying?  The squeaky wheel gets the grease!