HINSDALE, N.H. — Folks on both sides of the Connecticut River will get another chance on April 1 to chime in on plans for the two bridges connecting Brattleboro with Hinsdale.
Plans for a new bridge over the river have been in the works for many years, and construction is expected to start this year. The bridge is expected to be open to traffic in late 2023.
The $50 million project also calls for the rehabilitation for pedestrian use of the Charles Dana and Anna Hunt Marsh bridges and the island they land on in the middle of the river.
A citizen’s advisory group, the Hinsdale-Brattleboro Bridge Project Advisory Committee, was formed to provide guidance to the agencies of transportation in New Hampshire and Vermont and to the towns of Hinsdale and Brattleboro.
And the Hinsdale-Brattleboro Existing Bridges Subcommittee was formed to focus specifically on the historic bridges, the island and their connections to the towns.
After taking public input about the project, the subcommittee turned to Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, to put that feedback into design ideas. On Oct. 15, 2020, those design ideas were presented to the public.
“April 1 will be the final presentation of the conceptual plan for the island and the bridges,” said JB Mack, principal planner for Southwest Region Planning Commission. “This will be the last opportunity for the public to weigh in.”
During the Oct. 15 forum, the designs that were presented included beaches, a kayak landing, boardwalks, an event area and small amphitheater, parking for food trucks, green space, walkways lined with flowers and a spot to fish.
Mack said the conceptual plan that will be presented on April 1 combined the best ideas from all the plans.
“The plan has evolved over time,” he said. “It includes an amphitheater on the island, wildlife viewing areas, a restroom, access to the river from the island and both river banks, and space on the island for food trucks.”
Mack said estimates of the project cost and ongoing maintenance cost might be available during the meeting.
“A lot of elected officials have concerns about the project costs and ongoing maintenance costs,” he said.
If the proposal is accepted, said Mack, it could serve as a blueprint for future grant applications to help pay for the project, for maintaining the bridges and keeping the lights on.
“We still have a long way to go after this,” he said.
To register to participate in the 6:30 p.m. forum, visit BIT.LY/APR1PREREG21.
Sometime this summer, said Mack, the subcommittee will present a report to the Hinsdale-Brattleboro Project Advisory Committee as well as the select boards in Hinsdale and Brattleboro.
“The report will be advisory in nature,” said Mack. “The conceptual plan also identifies some opportunities for private-public partnerships which could potentially help fund aspects of the plan or answer some of the questions relating to ongoing maintenance or public safety. It will take some time to develop those plans. That being said, we do have time. It will be difficult to implement any changes to the island and bridges until the new bridge is built.”