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The Yankee Express

Funds requested for temporary bridge If approved, would give some traffic relief

A $2.5 million federal funding request, presently in Congress, will pay for a temporary bridge to reopen the Brandon Road/Hill Street crossing over the French River, if approved. 
Congressman Richard E. Neal submitted the funding request to the House Committee on Appropriations as an important community project in the Massachusetts First Congressional District. 
If approved by the committee, the $2.5 million Community Project Funding grant would pay for the installation of a temporary modular bridge that would be borrowed from MassDOT, until a permanent bridge is installed. 
In his May 10, 2023, letter to the committee Congressman Neal wrote, “This is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds…its closure has restricted access between the towns of Dudley and Webster, resulting in traffic congestion, longer response times for emergency vehicles, and impacting local business. If funding for a temporary bridge is not found, it could be five or more years before the road reopens.” 
One rule of the Appropriations Committee is that each Representative may request funding for up to 15 projects for fiscal year 2025, recognizing that only a handful may receive funding. Responding to pleas from Dudley officials, Representative Neal selected the Mill Race Bridge as one of his 15. 
In a January 11, 2022, letter to Representative Neal, Town Administrator Jonathan Ruda wrote, “The Town of Dudley has an urgent need for infrastructure funding to pay for necessary repairs on the Brandon Road Bridge.” 
Ruda went on to say the town used state funding to pay for the design and engineering costs and therefore, the project is “shovel ready.”
 “Several steps have been completed in advance of this funding request,” Ruda wrote, adding,” A site assessment with MassDOT and Tighe & Bond Engineers was completed. Then, an internal planning meeting took place to initiate and coordinate all of the project components, including the hydraulic/hydrologic report, initial geotech summary report, and identification of permitting. Additionally, a Flood Insurance Study request has been submitted to FEMA for information about the French River in Dudley and Webster.” 
Dudley Town Planner William Scanlan said, “If approved, the funds will pay for a temporary bridge over the Mill Race and allow through traffic once more. MassDOT has included a complete, permanent new bridge over the French River and Mill Race in its bridge program, but it is many years away from construction,” 
The bridge that spans the French River on the Dudley and Webster town line has been inaccessible since June 2021 because an adjoining dry bridge on the Dudley side, known as the Mill Race Bridge, was deemed unsafe by MassDOT, and ordered closed.
The combined bridges were a popular bypass for motorists seeking to avoid Main Street traffic when traveling to points in both Dudley and Webster. The Dudley approach on Brandon Road was closed at the intersection of Chase Ave. and barricades were placed on the Hill Street approach in Webster. 
Dudley allocated state funding budgeted for routine road repair to demolish the bridge last spring, while town officials sought funds to erect a temporary bridge and continued work toward a permanent fix. 
The campaign to gain funding included appeals to federal and local reps for special funding and grants. 
“Our community has been more than patient in waiting for federal funding for this project to be approved. We’ve checked all of the boxes,” Ruda said of the news that the funding request has reached committee. 
The proposed permanent solution would eliminate the Mill Race Bridge by re-grading the area to replicate its primary purpose, which was flood control capacity. 
In a January 2023 letter, MassDOT deemed the bridge work eligible for funding and approved the estimated cost of $6,235,000. State and federal money would fund the $6.2 million project, while Dudley would be responsible for the costly and time-consuming process of right-of-way acquisitions.