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State unsure when work on bridge will resume

Sept. 27, 2013
<b>This new delay in completing the repairs bridge will deepen the impact to local businesses.</b> <br>Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

This new delay in completing the repairs bridge will deepen the impact to local businesses.
Reminder Publications photo by G. Michael Dobbs

By G. Michael Dobbs


CHICOPEE – Work has ceased on reconstructing the Willimansett Bridge and state officials have no idea at this time when the work will begin again.

Sara Lavoie, press secretary for the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, (MassDOT), explained to Reminder Publications that the Danish construction company Pihl has started bankruptcy proceedings and all payments to the sub-contractors actually completing work on the bridge has ceased.

Lavoie said there has been no timeline established as yet for the work to resume and added this is not a unique situation.

Lavoie wrote, “MassDOT is stopping all payments to Pihl and will be working through the legal and financial processes that are in place to ensure the outstanding work is completed.”

Pihl did take out a performance bond for the project for $19.257 million and Savoie said that funding would be used to complete the project.

The state first heard informal of the bankruptcy on Sept. 4 and then received formal notice on Sept. 13, she said.

Work has started in August 2011and the original timetable for the renovation was two and half years. Two years later, only 50 percent of the work has been accomplished Savoie noted. She did not know the number of employees of the subcontractors who worked at the bridge had been affected by the bankruptcy.

The project included replacement of the bridge deck and sidewalk, as well as replacement of bridge rails, girders, trusses and piers. The bridge was built in 1891.

Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette compared the recently finished rebuilding of the Davitt Memorial Bridge to the Willimansett span. “If the Davitt is the project where everything went right, the Willimansett is the project where almost nothing goes right,” he said.

Bissonnette added he knows that businesses near the bridge have been negatively affected by the shutdown.

Mark McDonald, owner of A.B.M. Transmission and Engine technology told Reminder Publications in 2011 that he feared his business would be adversely affected without the hundreds of cars that went by it every day.

His prediction has become true. “It’s been very devastating,” he said this week.

He added, “It’s like fighting a losing battle.”

McDonald said he has spent money on advertising, but’s it not taken the place of being seen daily by a stream of passing drivers.

Before the bridge closed he would have 10 to 12 cars in his parking area to be serviced. Now he has one to two.

To make matters worse, he has suffered a series of break-ins, which didn’t happen prior to the bridge closing.

McDonald said if he had known the project would have taken so long and had such an effect on his business he would have moved.

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