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Stockbridge weighs options for Curtisville Bridge plan

The Select Board plans to to obtain a second opinion before making a final decision.

Stockbridge — The Select Board deliberated over four choices presented for the ailing Curtisville Bridge following a June 6 presentation by Town Manager Michael Canales, opting to wait for a second opinion before moving forward. Those options varied from a vehicular bridge to a pedestrian bridge or trail bridge, with the need for local mobility considered, along with the historical nature of the site that dates to the mid-1800s.

For John McCarthy, whose family lives adjacent to the bridge and whose home shares its foundation, the bridge’s status is “very top of mind.” He told the Select Board he assembled a letter from neighbors in that area, “folks who care deeply about the old, historic spirit of Curtisville.“

“It is a beautiful, amazing example of an old industrial village,” McCarthy said. “It’s got a really powerful, amazing charm to it.”

Advocating the structure be used as a pedestrian bridge, McCarthy cited a benefit of the bridge that initially closed to vehicles but allowed pedestrian traffic: “That village started to feel a lot more as we imagined it might have back in the earlier days, a lot more peaceful, a lot more connected.” He added, “With that being reopened for vehicular traffic, it would probably ruin a lot of the benefits that we’ve started to enjoy.”

The Curtisville Bridge, one of the Commonwealth’s oldest stone-arch bridges, was closed in 2012 following an engineering review from the Massachusetts Department of Transportation. Three years later, Stockbridge officials undertook a study to repair the structure funded by a Massachusetts Historical Commission grant. Although the study was completed in 2016, the work was never done and the bridge was found to have “significantly deteriorated” in 2020, according to town documents supporting engineering consulting firms’ visits that year. Subsequently, the utilities were moved off the stone bridge onto a parallel steel structure while the stone bridge remains closed to all traffic, including pedestrians.

At the recent meeting, Canales said the arch on the bridge is separating, the wing walls are continuing to deteriorate, and erosion is impacting its abutments. Additionally, the north retaining wall of the structure has failed and fallen in. The south retaining wall is in decent shape but is being pushed out at the bottom, with water getting behind the wall, popping out its stones.

The options considered by Select Board members included:

  • Option 1: The bridge will function for vehicular traffic, but the arch will be dismantled and replaced with a new concrete and stone masonry arch, and the utility pipes reinstalled under this bridge. The nearby steel bridge now housing those pipe lines will be removed and the original stones reused while “maintaining the present aesthetic appearance.” The cost is estimated at $1.18 million.
  • Option 2: This option uses the same structure changes as in Option 1 but the bridge will only hold pedestrian traffic. The cost is estimated at $1.04 million.
  • Option 3: At an estimated cost of $506,000, this option is the most affordable and includes taking down the old stone masonry bridge and redesigning the utility bridge to accommodate pedestrians.
  • Option 4: Although no estimated cost was provided for this option since it was recently added to the choice list, Option 4 offers a trail bridge in place of the stone masonry bridge, with the utility bridge still in place.

“We need to keep this moving forward so we’re not just stopping,” Canales said of the project, adding that an engineering review would follow the Select Board’s decision. If a full road bridge is undertaken, state funding might be possible, he said. In 2026, the historical preservation restriction covering the bridge expires, giving town officials a freer ability to choose what to do with the structure, Canales said.

Select Board Chair Ernest Cardillo identified the first hurdle in the decision as choosing whether the bridge should carry traffic or just pedestrians. He said the town hasn’t had any traffic complaints regarding the bridge being out and prefers the fourth option that creates a footbridge, pushing for the utility bridge to be made to more aesthetically match its surroundings.

The utility bridge that lies parallel to the Curtisville Bridge was part of the Stockbridge Select Board’s discussion on proposals for the structure. Photo by Leslee Bassman

Board member Patrick White said the final option may be very costly and cautioned to wait until after October 31—the date General Electric Company is due to present its updated transportation plan pursuant to the Housatonic Rest of River remediation plan—to decide on the bridge as it may be part of that route. “I’m not going to support any truck-bearing bridges for work on this until we know what their plan is,” he said of the 13-year project. Instead, White proposed replacing the chain link fence surrounding the bridge with a nicer fence and putting off a decision until the remediation project routes have been set.

Cardillo pointed out that if nothing is done and the bridge walls collapse, the problem will be exacerbated by possible flooding, house damage, and “a pretty big disaster,” as other bridge neighbors agreed.

Board member Jamie Minacci said she preferred a pedestrian bridge due to the high cost of a drive-over bridge and such a bridge is “not really necessary.” She said Option 2 “would be the best compromise.”

Resident Allen Wilkin disagreed with all the options, however, requesting a review by a second engineer who has experience with historical structures as professionals can have varying opinions. He claimed to know an engineer who looked at the Curtisville Bridge and “found it quite stable.”

“Tearing it down would be a great disservice to our forebearers in the community,” Wilkin said.

At the meeting, board members unanimously approved retaining Cardillo as the group’s chair; Hotel All Alcohol license for owners of The Inn at Stockbridge, which includes the ability for guests to take alcoholic beverages to their room; and one-day alcohol licenses for Chesterwood on June 14, as well as July 11, 17, 20, and 28.

By a vote of two to one, with White opposed, the group passed an increase of compactor sticker fees from $50 annually to $150 annually for the first sticker in a household, with $50 for the second sticker cost.


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