By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — Motorists accustomed to avoiding High Plain Road because of flooding problems can soon breathe easy. Improvements to the road are under way, but they come with traffic tie-ups for at least the next couple months.
Work started July 5 to replace a bridge and culvert where High Plain Road cuts through Fish Brook. The project is being paid for with a $1.1 million appropriation from the 2012 Annual Town Meeting.
The installation of a new culvert will shut the road down completely for a week starting Aug. 12. Outside of that one-week window, traffic on the road will continue to be reduced to one lane through the completion of the project, according to town engineer Brian Moore. Construction is expected to wrap up by Oct. 15.
In addition to the new culvert, the project will widen the road and raise the driving lanes by “a couple feet to reduce the number of times that the road gets closed due to flooding,” Moore said.
Flooding has been a recurring problem at the bridge, which is only a couple feet higher than the pond that surrounds it. During the 2010 floods, the road was closed for a week after Fish Brook took it over, Moore said.
“It probably went under 2 feet of water,” he said. “In severe periods of heavy rainfall, it has topped the road. It’s not an annual thing, but it was frequent enough that this project was something that was necessary.”
Town Meeting initially rejected the project in 2007 when it first came up for a vote, before giving it the go-ahead in 2012.
The construction is expected to cost about $700,000, plus design and architectural costs. Moore is expecting the project to be completed about $200,000 less than budgeted.
With High Plain Elementary and Wood Hill Middle schools right around the corner, Moore said slight headaches are expected as the schools open their doors in the midst of construction later this month. But he’s not expecting any major trouble as the bridge work overlaps the school year by about a month and a half.
School traffic “can get through, but you may expect some minor delays during that time frame,” he said.
The timing of the project was established to help protect wildlife living on or near the pond, as required by an environmental permit needed to do the project, according to Moore.