City plans to widen and replace bridge on Trues Brook Road

A truck travels down Trues Brook Road in Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, April 15, 2024. The Lebanon City Council will vote on a plan to widen Trues Brook Road Bridge, as well as 2,000 feet of roadway, to provide safer use by pedestrians and cyclists. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

A truck travels down Trues Brook Road in Lebanon, N.H., on Monday, April 15, 2024. The Lebanon City Council will vote on a plan to widen Trues Brook Road Bridge, as well as 2,000 feet of roadway, to provide safer use by pedestrians and cyclists. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

By PATRICK ADRIAN

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 04-15-2024 8:16 PM

WEST LEBANON — A plan to widen a 2,000-foot corridor of Trues Brook Road — including a particularly narrow bridge — has received mixed reviews from affected neighbors. While supporters of the $4 million project said it will improve safety, others said they are unenthusiastic to see a portion of their properties torn up.

The City Council will host a public hearing on Wednesday and vote on a proposed layout for the location where the city plans to replace a bridge crossing Bloods Brook with a wider structure.

The bridge, located near Trues Brook Road’s intersection with Derby Lane, is on the state’s list of bridges that are structurally deficient. A state inspection in 2023 found a serious deterioration of the bridge’s concrete deck, which contains numerous cracks and breaks.

The existing bridge also is narrow by modern standards, with a total width of just 17½ feet from rail to rail. The new bridge will have a total width of 32 feet, including two 11-foot travel lanes and two 5-foot wide shoulders to allow for pedestrians and cyclists to safely cross.

The project will also widen the roadway for 1,000 feet from each end of the bridge, including 5-foot wide shoulders.

Sean Houston and Becky Seguin, who live next to the bridge, said it is barely wide enough for two vehicles to pass simultaneously.

“I’ve seen about 15 accidents in the last 10 years, about one to two every year,” Houston said in an interview.

In addition to its narrowness, the bridge has limited sightlines that make it difficult to see another car approaching, Seguin said. A sign is posted near the bridge warning drivers, but many travel above the posted 35 mph speed limit and don’t prepare to slow down.

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Just two weeks ago, a driver lost control of a vehicle and drove into the ditch outside their house, Houston and Seguin said.

A purpose of Wednesday’s public hearing is to discuss the process of acquiring easements and right-of-way agreements with neighbors whose properties will be altered by the project, said City Engineer Rod Finley, who is managing the project.

In addition to the widening of shoulders near the bridge, a temporary bridge and access road will be built parallel to Trues Brook Road to keep the route open during construction.

Homes on the side where the temporary bridge will be built are expected to lose up to 3,500 square feet of property to the project right-of-way.

“I’ve been making steps in front of the house down to the brook. That’s all going to be destroyed (by the city’s project),” said neighbor Matt Braley, who said he opposes the widening plan.

Braley’s easiest access to the brook is near the road. The rest of his property has steep grades to the water, he said. 

Braley said he asked city engineers about other solutions, including building the temporary bridge on the other side of the road.

Finley said in a phone interview that the other side had wetlands and a pool of water inhabited by native brook trout, which would have made it difficult to get environmental permitting from the state.

The temporary bridge is necessary to keep Trues Brook Road open to through-traffic during the construction of the new bridge. Initially the city had considered closing the road at the bridge but that would have caused many residents to take a lengthy and time-consuming detour, Finley said.

Trues Brook is a 4-mile road that connects Plainfield Road in West Lebanon to Willow Brook Road in Plainfield. The road carries an average of 1,056 vehicles per day, according to a 2020 traffic study.

Finley said the city will make offers to the owners of five affected properties based on fair market value.

Each property has received a state-certified appraisal and an independent appraisal review.

The property owners will have the opportunity to negotiate for additional compensation, such as money for landscaping or for a planting of hedges to block view of the road, Finley said.

If an agreement cannot be reached, the city can take possession of the property through eminent domain, Finley said.

The property owners would still be compensated.

The new bridge and improved road is in a final design stage. The city hopes to put the project out to bid at the end of the year and begin construction in 2025.

The project is estimated to cost approximately $4 million in total, including $3.5 million for construction. A federal grant — the Municipally Owned Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or MOBIL — is covering the full cost of construction.

The state is covering 80% of the engineering cost, with a 20% match coming from the city.

Finley said that if construction starts on schedule, the new bridge and road could be complete by summer of 2026.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday in City Hall. The city councilors will conduct a site visit at the bridge at 5:30 p.m.

Patrick Adrian may be reached at padrian@vnews.com or at 603-727-3216.