First of stimulus money will go to Richmond bridge repair

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(Host) Some of the first federal stimulus money to be spent in Vermont will pay to fix a bridge in Richmond.

Work on the $1.6 million project will start next week, and will be finished by July.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) The rusting steel truss bridge that spans the Winooski River was closed for a time last year. After emergency repairs, it was re-opened with one lane only for safety reasons.

Soon the bridge will be closed again, while construction crews work to rehabilitate the span.

That means businesses in Richmond are bracing for a potential disruption as a key route through town is cut off.

But Tom Hark of the Richmond Area Business Association said people will still be able to get to their favorite stores and restaurants.

(Hark) “The message we really want to get out as a business community, and as an overall community, is that Richmond is open for business. And even through this bridge is closed, we have 300 businesses here in town that need people to come and shop.”

(Dillon) Hark and other residents gathered at the bridge Monday as Congressman Peter Welch announced that the federal stimulus money will pay for the project. Welch said that the stimulus bill passed last month does not require state or local funds to match the federal dollars.

(Welch) "One of the objectives we had with the federal stimulus money was to waive the state match and local match. The communities are being stretched, our state is being stretched, and if the objective of the stimulus money is to jumpstart the economy, then you really have to waive that state and local match.”

(Dillon) The bridge repair will cost about $1.6 million and will take about four months to complete.

Richmond residents have tried to come up with innovative ways to deal with the bridge closing. The plans include a possible ferry service across the Winooski River.

For VPR News, I’m John Dillon in Richmond.

AP Photo/Alden Pellett

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