Vinagro completes Burlingame Bridge, but will pact hold?

Vinagro completes Burlingame Bridge, but will pact hold?

Construction on Burlington Bridge on Hope Furnace Road, in Hope, was completed in two days due to around-the-clock work from Dec. 26 through Dec. 28. (Breeze photo by Jacquelyn Moorehead)

SCITUATE – After two days of road closure on Hope Furnace Road, J.R. Vinagro completed promised construction and expansion of a bridge on the roadway.

According to Vinagro’s safety director, Matt Leonard, the road was closed for a brief window Dec. 26-28 to minimize traffic impacts to as many people as possible, and to avoid disrupting a Christmas tree business on the road.

The detour, called “horrendous” by one local resident, forced residents far out of their way.

Leonard said crews worked around the clock to complete the $376,739 project, widening the road to allow for safer passage across the Burlingame Bridge, which runs over a culvert taking Burlingame Brook under Hope Furnace Road across from Ben Brown Avenue.

He said the construction was completed quickly due to around-the-clock work and coordination between crews and contracted companies, using the right equipment and the right people.

In all, construction included making Burlingame Bridge five feet wider, the widening of the road on either side of the bridge by four feet, adding upgraded guardrails, and finishing it off with a new coat of pavement, Leonard said.

Town Engineer Joseph Casali said the plan was to get the bridge done faster, but Vinagro needed about 48 hours to complete the work. He said the project was similar to a Lego kit, with the box-shaped culvert prefabricated into a concrete form that was dropped into place.

Improvements made the bridge safer for passing, but also solved the issues of weight restrictions, allowing the bridge to carry large trucks and buses.

“Now it’s a lot safer,” Leonard said.

Both Leonard and Casali said the bridge was in need of repair, which was proven during demolition.

“The minute we hit it with the bucket, it just crumbled,” Leonard said.

“It fell apart like dust,” Casali added. “It brought us a time of reflection and caution. You see hammers and claws demolishing bridges. We never had to use them because the bridge fell apart.”

Vinagro agreed to pay for the project, but it does come at a price to the town. Many members of the community and residents of Hope Furnace Road disagreed with removing a restriction on through-trucking on the road in exchange for the work, citing the road’s narrow turns and residential nature as too dangerous for large trucks hauling stone.

Vinagro struck a deal with the town last June, trading the upgrades to Burlingame Bridge and signing off landfill rights at the Vinagro property in exchange for through-trucking rights on Hope Furnace Road in Hope.

Restrictions on the road were in place for more than 17 years, keeping trucks off the winding roadway with its hairpin turns.

Former Town Council President John Mahoney said the deal with Vinagro was “pretty good.” Vinagro agreed to write in the land deed a restriction against the use of a landfill “in perpetuity.”

“We are never going to be threatened by a landfill again,” Mahoney said at last June’s meeting.

Vinagro’s stone crushing operation is allowed access through Hope Furnace Road Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Leonard said the cost of building the bridge will be less than one accident caused by their trucks on the road.

“My job is safety, for the employees, the public and the environment. Colvintown Road is an unsafe road. I couldn’t keep sending trucks down there,” Leonard said.

As a new council comes into power, the agreement between Vinagro and Scituate may be investigated. Councilor Charles Collins says he will attempt to reinforce the restriction on trucking, but the move could cost the town. Should officials terminate the agreement, the town will pay the cost of the bridge plus 20 percent interest within 90 days of the termination of agreement, reduced on an annual basis.

As a town-owned road, the project still needs to be up to Rhode Island Department of Transportation standards. Scituate Building Official George Dumont said, “there are no violations or any open permits on this property.”

Leonard said the town expressed concern over a visibility issue down the road on the eastern side of the bridge. He said Vinagro is willing to address the issue, which he believes to mostly be about excavation, and said the bridge will not need to be expanded.