By MIKE DONOGHUE
Islander Staff Writer
GRAND ISLE -- Work on the Grand Isle-North Hero drawbridge on U.S. 2 will be close to 24/6 this summer as the State of Vermont tries to speed up the major project, according to Transportation Secretary Joe Flynn.
Word of the extra-long construction work shifts first became public at the meeting of the Grand Isle Selectboard on Monday night. Sunday will be the one day of rest for bridge workers.
Emily Clark, an owner of Ladd’s Landing a local marina adjacent to the bridge, reported to the Selectboard she had been told about the extended work shifts in an email from the state.
“Seems like a pretty significant impact,” Clark said.
Selectboard Chair Jeff Parizo said when the town tried to place some limitations on the construction efforts, the state stepped in. “We were shut down,” Parizo said.
The disclosure seemed to catch the Selectboard and Town Clerk Melissa Boutin by surprise. They wondered if there was any limitations or state statute to restrict nighttime noise. Clark noted people using her marina sleep overnight on their boats whether they come from 2 or 200 miles.
Selectboard member Eric Godin volunteered to try to learn more and report back in two weeks. He agreed to reach out to Flynn and State Sen. Dick Mazza, D-Grand Isle/Colchester, chair of the state transportation committee.
Flynn said on Tuesday that the state is criticized for the length of the multi-year project and expects some grief by trying to speed things up.
“The bulk of the work will be completed in 2022. There will be some project closure work that spills into 2023,” he told The Islander.
“We need to gain ground,” Flynn said.
Like most construction projects there have been ups and downs and the drawbridge is no exception. The project slowed after unanticipated soil contamination due to PCBs were found at multiple locations along the shoreline.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation (AOT) announced in January 2020 that it had negotiated an extension to the construction schedule.
Flynn said last year in Middlebury work crews on a tunnel project in downtown went 24-hours a day for 12 weeks to bring the project to completion so it could open in September.
Flynn said some outreach had begun on the drawbridge work, including to Sen. Mazza and to Clark.
Clark said a state email noted the contractor plans to work Monday through Saturday beginning May 2 and continue through the construction season. The day shift will run 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., while the night shift will be from 9 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., she said.
“The work at night will be a continuation of the same construction activities during the day. The purpose of this work at night is to ensure that the majority of remaining construction is complete this season,” the AOT spokeswoman said in the email.
Originally, the bridge was scheduled to open to vehicle and pedestrian traffic in May 2021, but the Agency now anticipates traffic will be restored in 2022.
The $60.5 million project will lengthen into the summer of 2023 as the short-term bridge and temporary roadway are removed after traffic is shifted to the new bridge.
The Agency had suspected the presence of lead around the bridge from previous paint systems. While the initial testing yielded positive results for lead it also unexpectedly detected cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) at multiple locations and hexavalent chromium.
The bridge, built in 1953, has about 6,000 motorists cross it each day during the summer.