GEORGIA – The bridge connecting Route 104A over Arrowhead Lake will likely require a full replacement currently scheduled for 2020 before two lanes of traffic can once again pass over the lake, according to Agency of Transportation (VTrans) officials.

During a public hearing on the matter held in Georgia Monday night, Laura Stone and Rob Young of VTrans presented the state’s likely course of action to residents and officials from both Fairfax and Georgia – the two communities connected directly by Route 104A.

VTrans is reportedly opting for full replacement over more piecemeal maintenance, guaranteeing a new bridge with a 75-year lifespan that’s widened to match the rest of Route 104A. That expansion would continue Route 104A’s shoulders over the bridge.

VTrans is aiming to keep the replacement within Route 104A’s right-of-way. “[Expanding the right-of-way] adds to the project schedule, so we’re really trying to stay out of it,” Stone said.

The permitting required for expanding a right-of-way would also have to take into account historical and archaeological resources on both banks of Arrowhead Lake, as well as the presence of a state-classified endangered species, the northern long-eared bat.

The old bridge, damaged last September after a tractor trailer toppled over its railing into Arrowhead Lake, was originally built in 1937, putting the bridge past its expected 80-year lifespan, according to Stone.

With the bridge prioritized by the state’s Accelerated Bridge Program, VTrans expects construction to go out to bid sometime in 2019 and replacement to occur sometime in 2020. In the meantime, VTrans is investigating whether to replace the traffic light currently directing traffic over the bridge’s single open lane.

According to Young, replacing the bridge over Arrowhead Lake would cost $2.4 million – all of which would be paid through state and federal funds.

When that construction occurs, VTrans predicts Route 104A would be closed for a maximum of 45 days. According to Young, VTrans has had a 100 percent success rate in keeping its Accelerated Bridge Program replacements within scheduled construction timelines.

With that closure planned, VTrans will, in the meantime, be routing traffic toward the state-owned St. Albans State Highway, which connects Route 7 to Route 105 near I-89’s Exit 19 in St. Albans.

A more direct detour exists via Skunk Hill Road, which runs parallel to 104A to its north before eventually exiting onto Route 104A just west of the Georgia – Fairfax town line.

Skunk Hill Road is owned and maintained by the Town of Georgia. According to Young, grant funding may be available at the state level to help maintain that road once construction begins for a new bridge.

A recreation area near the bridge would remain open through construction.

Polls taken during Monday’s meeting showed preference for the construction to take place sometime during summer break, avoiding an impact to daily traffic to and from school, though those polls were taken ahead of VTrans announcing its 2020 schedule for replacement.

According to VTrans statistics shared Monday night, Route 104A sees traffic from 6,200 cars a day. During high points in traffic, some 740 cars might pass over the Arrowhead Lake bridge in an hour.

Approximately 3 percent of that traffic is truck traffic.

As the project continues, VTrans will be posting updates on the Route 104A bridge replacement at https://outside.vermont.gov/agency/vtrans/external/Projects/Structures/18B265.

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