Wareham's Elm Street bridge construction to start in 2019

Jun 6, 2018

Construction is scheduled to start in 2019 on a long-closed bridge on Elm Street, near a historic property town officials have identified as a promising economic opportunity.

Closed in 2014 due to structural issues, the two-lane bridge connects Main Street and Cranberry Highway near the 7.2-acre Tremont Nail Factory District.

Starting in 1819, the site was home to the Tremont Nail Company. For more than 100 years, cut nails and other products were manufactured in the complex before the company moved to Mansfield.

In 2004, the Town of Wareham bought the site using Community Preservation Act funds. The act is a Massachusetts law that allows participating cities and towns to adopt a real estate tax surcharge, supplemented by state matching funds in order to fund community preservation.

Until recently, the property has languished, attracting few tenants and drawing ire from residents tired of town funds being used to maintain the eight buildings on the property.

Last year, efforts to revitalize the property ramped up as plans took shape to transform the property into a vibrant destination, complete with shops and event space.

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said the construction would benefit efforts to revamp the site.

“This will allow the town to start fixing a major concern that could have prevented vital economic development,” said Sullivan.

John Michalak, a project manager with the Worcester-based Nitsch Engineering, said the bridge replacement is being designed now. Plans moved forward in 2017 after the town received a $500,000 grant from the state, part of the Small Bridge Program. Under the program, communities may receive up to $500,000 in grant money for town-owned bridges that are between 10 and 20 feet long. Bridges of that length aren’t eligible for federal funds. Wareham was one of 36 cities and towns across Massachusetts that received the grant on the first application.

The two-lane bridge will be replaced in one phase, lasting approximately four weeks once construction starts, said John Michalak, a project engineer with Worcester-based Nitsch Engineering.

Construction on the 23-foot bridge is set to start in winter 2019. Final designs will be submitted to the state in August of this year. A bid will be accepted in January 2019. In total, replacing the bridge will cost an estimated $1.2 million.

Plans call for moving utility lines from beneath the bridge to its side, reducing the threat of damage during floods. Matthew Styckiewicz, a structural engineer with Nitsch Engineering, said there is a second bridge nearby, which will also be replaced. Town officials are waiting to hear if a grant will be awarded for that work as well. They are optimistic the state is going to provide the grant.

“It wouldn’t make sense for them to fund one, but not the other,” said Michalak.