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July 16, 2013

Salem receives $358K for bridge projects

$358K is for design only, not construction

SALEM — In the wake of dwindling state funding, the town has been awarded $358,973 in grant money for three bridge projects.

The money, from the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, will fund design work for bridges on Town Farm Road, Bluff Street Extension and Providence Hill Road, town engineering director Robert Puff.

The grants reimburse the town for 80 percent of its design costs, but no state funding is immediately available for the actual work, he said.

“It’s a long wait if it’s money for reconstruction,” Puff said.

The money includes $161,726 for the Town Farm Road bridge, $103,040 for the Bluff Street Extension bridge and $94,206 for the Providence Hill Road bridge.

Selectmen’s Chairman Everett McBride Jr. said yesterday he was pleased the town received the money, especially since the state has cut back on its funding of bridge projects.

“That money is completely for redesigning the bridges — there is no construction money at all,” he said. “We are not eligible for construction money until 2018 or 2019.”

State budget cuts and an increased demand for aid to fund the replacement of more than deteriorating 500 bridges on the state’s red list has reduced the availability of money for these projects, according to Transportation Commissioner Christopher Clement.

This has led to 10-year waiting list, Clement said this spring. The state can only fund 10 projects a year and the $6.8 million in annual funding has not been increased in 17 years, he said.

That prompted Salem last year to postpone replacement of the Town Farm Road bridge project for at least a year. The town was counting on $800,000 in grant money for the $1 million construction project.

Although Salem currently has five bridges on the red list, the town has used state aid to replace eight other bridges over the last decade.

“The town of Salem has taken significant advantage of the money,” McBride said. “We have been able to rebuild our infrastructure.”

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