The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 4, 2009


Monument Street bridge to reopen ahead of schedule

Kudos to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation – Highway Division (MassHighway) for their work in constructing Monument Street’s Flint Bridge! While it is not every day that one compliments the highway department, they are worthy of praise in this case for building this bridge more quickly than projected and within budget. This bridge was originally constructed in 1877 and had not been subject to any significant reconstruction since that time. This key link to Concord center was closed on May 28, 2008 and is projected to reopen later this month, almost half a year earlier than planned. It is projected that the rehabilitated bridge will now have an extended service life of 50 to 75 years. The federal government will underwrite 80% of the $4.4 million cost, with the state picking up the remaining 20%.

A few Carlisle residents have been monitoring the bridge-building progress during the past 18 months and have been very pleased with the level of communication and responsiveness when speaking with highway department officials every few months. In particular, Patty Leavenworth, the overall project manager, has been very helpful in discussing the progress as well as the problems that the highway department experienced throughout this construction process.

In previous eras, bridge building was a lot simpler, and often much faster, endeavor. Times have certainly changed as highway departments must now comply with a wide range of laws that pertain to historic, environmental, waterway and other issues that impact how quickly bridges can be built. MassHighway certainly had to confront many of these constraints when working on the Monument Street Bridge because it is located over the National Wild and Scenic Concord River, within the North Bridge/Monument Square Local Historic District and adjacent to the Minute Man National Historic Park. As an example, due to time-sensitive environmental permitting requirements from the Army Corps of Engineers and the EPA, some critical construction on and near the river could take place only between July 15 and October 1.

Also, within a few months of starting the project, MassHighway encountered a major, unexpected problem that would have required extensive excavation behind the existing abutments. In order to avoid lengthy delays and additional costs, they worked with Jacobs Engineering, their design consultant, to revise the design and utilize a different type of wall system at the ends of the bridge.

Also, in order to preserve and strengthen the historic arch and its architectural features, an innovative, proprietary system (ArchTec) was utilized. In addition to rebuilding and slightly widening the bridge, the project also has included reconstruction of the roadway approaches, the installation of approach guardrails as well as guardrails for the bridge itself.

As many Carlisle residents know, the closure of Monument Street’s Flint Bridge has sometimes led to significantly longer commutes to Concord center and beyond, particularly during rush hour. It is with a sigh of relief and a note of appreciation to MassHighway that, sooner than anticipated, we will be able to drive to and from Concord utilizing this enhanced, safer bridge. ∆

I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore

December already: how fast has 2009 flown? This year seemed a lot more like riding a twister and landing in Oz than most, and as we all know, that was a pretty fast ride.

Maybe the year whizzed by because it never got any real traction, upended and swept along as it was by a recession that filled Carlisle’s library with people researching new job opportunities to replace the old ones lost, that saw just about everyone husbanding resources, finding creative ways to manage on less money and coping with a tectonic shift in the configuration of their lives and their definition of home. Much of what we thought was anchored and secure has proved otherwise, forcing us to think quickly, to improvise and to change our outlooks. The effort is like being uprooted, spinning high up in that twister and landing in Oz, but it is a valuable exercise, requiring us to flex and stretch inner resources perhaps too long dormant.

Oz demands a quest. Carlisle’s quest, not so much a hunt for a wicked witch as a hunt for solutions to daunting cutbacks in available funds, involves constructing things like viable budgets, building plans and professional positions. It continues to require cooperation and an extra measure of brains, courage, and heart. Bringing back the witch’s broom for us is the equivalent to answering the question: how can we maintain excellent town services with a lot less money? The Finance Committee wizards have asked all departments to come up with budgets reflecting a 10% reduction, and present a picture of what each department would look like in that scenario. Words like “regionalization” and “integration” are popping up more frequently. Our boards and committees are tackling the problem of making those words work to the advantage of the town. Communication is wider and awareness seems increased. Volunteerism is up. People are opining, participating, responding to the challenges of our collective Oz.

This year in my family, our lives have also been upended and spun around, and we have had to improvise and rethink our strategies for the future. It feels a lot like being in Oz. Dorothy’s answer to her Ozian quest was to return to bland, unchanging Kansas, but I think Oz is beginning to look a lot more like home. This year has had heart: we welcomed a new baby and a new fiancée into our family and there are now four generations of us. And there was courage: I took some halting steps down the yellow brick road and started a new business; my husband restructured his. Brains were necessary too: we had to think of things we “never thunk before.” We met and made new friends and reconnected with old ones, people who supported us with their own brains, courage and heart as we all shared personal quests to improve our lives in the face of intimidating odds.

Maybe the lesson here is that there is always an Oz. Although it changes the nature of home and shakes up our personal and collective talents, we’re not in Kansas anymore and with brains, courage, heart and friends, Oz can be a great place to live. ∆



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