Town Crier

There is to be a hearing on the Butters Row bridge Wednesday evening. It won’t be the usual clunky-clunk noise of cars going over the old wood bridge. This hearing will be the Mass Dept. of Transportation presenting plans for replacement of the bridge, and will be pre­sented on Zoom at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 1.

Believe it or not, the bridge is not the oldest one in town, In fact, it’s newer than most, only it’s of a very old design. About 40 years ago, a contractor had to rebuild the bridge after a sewer excavation undermined one of its abutments. It would have been a good opportunity to build a whole new bridge, but there were no plans drawn for such a project. So they rebuilt the bridge much like it had been for nearly 150 years.

When the Boston & Low­ell Railroad was built in 1835, the bridges were built for safety, to avoid collisions between locomotives and horse-drawn wa­gons.

That plan worked quite well for about a century. In the 1950s, though, the Bos­ton & Maine Railroad was in financial straits, leaving the many bridges in limbo. The town owned the road, but the railroad owned the bridges. After years of wrangling, the state took over responsibility for the bridges.

Meanwhile, trucks had become heavier, trains tal­ler, and traffic more prolific. A gravel truck broke through the old Shaw­sheen Avenue bridge about 1959. More than once, too-tall freight trains splintered the support beams of the wooden bridges.

One-by-one, Wilming­ton’s bridges over the railroad have been replaced. Ironically, one bridge was removed completely, on Bridge Lane, no less. This leaves but one old wooden bridge, Butters Row.

The Butters Row bridge presents several problems. It is at a point where the tracks are parallel and rather close to Main Street. This does not allow enough distance for an adequate approach ramp, especially with the height clearance required over the tracks.

Of great concern is the impact on traffic along Bu­t­ters Row, one of the old­est roads in town. A new bridge will create a handy short-cut, completely changing the na­ture of the narrow road.

For further information, go to www.mass.gov/massdot-highway-design-public-hearing.

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