Stockbridge awarded $1 million grant for deteriorating Larrywaug Bridge

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STOCKBRIDGE — Town leaders are celebrating an especially timely and much needed financial boost from Boston.

The state's Small Town Rural Assistance Program (STRAP) has awarded the maximum possible grant to the town — $1 million to replace the badly deteriorated and heavily traveled Larrywaug Bridge on Route 183, just north of the state highway's intersection with Route 102.

In March, the town had received a $500,000 grant from the state's Small Bridge Program, also designated for the bridge on a key connecting route between Stockbridge and Lenox.

"The $1.5 million in grants will allow us to move forward with the project during the 2018 construction season," Highway Superintendent Leonard Tisdale said.

In a series of inspections throughout the town in May 2016, the state Department of Transportation had given the 1931 Larrywaug Bridge a rating of 3 on a 10-point scale, thus in danger of "imminent failure," one step from being shut down.

A replacement design for the span is underway by the town's engineering firm, BSC Group of Boston, Tisdale said.

Total cost of the project is estimated at $2.6 million to $2.8 million, he noted.

The state grants will be combined with voter-authorized funding through a 20-year bond and the town's stabilization reserves. Other bridge projects will be postponed in order to make the Larrywaug replacement the top priority, Tisdale said.

Letters of support from Lee/Lenox Town Administrator Christopher Ketchen, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, and leaders of Tanglewood and the Norman Rockwell Museum "were instrumental in providing stellar recommendation letters supporting the funding efforts," Tisdale stated. "Without them, I don't believe we would have had the grant successes."

Once the Massachusetts Department of Transportation reviews and approves the bridge replacement, he added, the Larrywaug project could begin in August or September. The six-week project uses "pre-engineered, precast concrete components, which are more economical and efficient," according to Tisdale.

"This is an outstanding culmination of Len Tisdale's efforts, with the help of Town Administrator Danielle Fillio and others in town government," said Stockbridge Finance Committee Chairman Jay Bikofsky. "We are all very proud and appreciative of receiving this award and thank the state for their recognition of Stockbridge."

Fillio also commended Tisdale "on his hard work with the grant process. Getting not one, but two significant grants in such a short time is not an easy task." She also cited the letters of support from Pignatelli, Ketchen, the Rockwell Museum and Tanglewood.

The Baker-Polito administration has invited town leaders to the Statehouse on Tuesday afternoon to attend the formal announcement of this year's STRAP grant awards to Stockbridge and other rural towns through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program.

Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash, state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, Pignatelli and state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, are among the state leaders and lawmakers scheduled to attend.

Route 183 is a key link for motorists heading from Stockbridge and points south to Tanglewood, Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Berkshire Country Day School, residences in the Interlaken neighborhood and to downtown Lenox.

Town voters approved a $2.6 million, 20-year bond last Jan. 23 to finance repairs to eight ailing bridges and roadways in Stockbridge. They also approved taking $200,000 from the town's $1.3 million stabilization fund to begin the design work for the Larrywaug Bridge replacement.

Still awaiting restoration are the Averic Road twin bridges off Route 183 in the Interlaken neighborhood, which were closed by MassDOT in May 2016. The estimated cost has been put at $1.1 million.

The most recent tale of bridge woes emerged this past July, when an engineering inspection revealed that the Route 183 South culvert in the Glendale section of town was structurally unsound. The 6-foot, stone-arch culvert, dating from the 1850s, is on Route 183, across from the Glendale Post Office, adjacent to the former Mundy's tavern.

Among other major reconstruction projects financed by the 20-year bond is a $600,000 restoration of an 8-foot bridge over a culvert on Route 183, just south of Berkshire Country Day School. A temporary repair was completed a year ago.

Reach correspondent Clarence Fanto at cfanto@yahoo.com or 413-637-2551.

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