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Frequently Asked Questions

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Municipal Small Bridge Program

What problems are being solved through this program?

There are approximately 1,300 bridges in Massachusetts that have span lengths between 10' and 20' that are on municipal roads and whose ownership and maintenance responsibilities belong solely to the municipality. These bridges are not eligible for federal aid under existing bridge replacement or rehabilitation programs and an increasing number of them are at high risk for full or partial closure in the near future due to their present condition.

Recognizing the difficulty smaller municipalities have in meeting this responsibility, MassDOT has established the Municipal Small Bridge Program to provide financial support to cities and towns for small bridge replacement, preservation and rehabilitation projects.

How is this program being funded?

Funding for this program will utilize non-federal aid state funds. Approved projects will be funded through reimbursement agreements between MassDOT and each selected municipality. The program is funded at $50 million over five years (FY 17-FY 21). The Application for this program is available on the MassDOT website. Applications will be accepted at three times during the year - Oct. 31, Feb. 28, and June 30. An Application for an emergency situation can be submitted for review at any time. The Application must be submitted by a Municipal official with contracting authority. Approved projects will be funded through reimbursement agreements between MassDOT and each selected municipality.

How much assistance can municipalities apply for?

This program provides for State reimbursement to municipalities of up to 100% of the total design and construction cost of eligible projects addressing preservation, rehabilitation and replacement of municipally owned bridges. The maximum amount of reimbursement, including design, construction and administrative costs is $500,000 per year per municipality. An Application received within 12 months of an approved application will not be considered.

What is the municipality's responsibility once a project is approved?

The municipality will be responsible for administering the project through its design and construction phases including procurement of a designer, and bidding and oversight of the construction contract. The selected designer must be pre-qualified by the MassDOT Architects and Engineers Review Board in the category of Basic Bridge Design/Rating. The selected construction contractor must be pre-qualified by MassDOT in the category of Bridge Construction. The municipality will be responsible for obtaining all environmental permits, coordinating with any affected utility companies and securing any required right of way.

What is the application process?

Municipalities will submit a letter of request to their respective Highway District with adequate detail and backup for review with a preliminary cost estimate for the project. Information should include photographs, a description of the structure(s) including date of construction/reconstruction and structure type, repair history, summary of known problems and a discussion of proposed work. The estimate must include any anticipated design costs and should include an appropriate amount for contingencies (suggested 15%).

After a thorough review and investigation process in partnership with the applying community, the District will forward a recommendation to the information to the MassDOT Bridge Section in Boston for inclusion in the Program if it concurs with the assessment. As part of the recommendation, the District shall also include an assessment of the urgency of the project to help the Bridge Section determine the overall priority ranking of the project.

After a further review and evaluation by the MassDOT Bridge Team, projects will be recommended and forwarded to the Chief Engineer for final review.

What are the criteria for eligibility?

  • Municipalities must show a demonstrated fiscal need for the project.
  • Bridge must be on a public way and be on the State Bridge Inventory (spans between 10'-20').
  • Bridge must be structurally deficient (if known) or load posted.
  • Any costs over $500,000 shall be borne by the municipality.
  • Municipality must provide information of local impacts should the bridge have to be closed. These impacts may include:
    • Response time for first responders
    • Delays to school buses and other service providers (i.e. fuel and other critical deliveries, accessibility accommodations, etc.)
    • Suitable detour length

What is MassDOT looking for from the municipality in their application?

In addition to the criteria mentioned above and the information provided on the Application, MassDOT is looking for the first round of applications to be focused on the more critical routes where a small bridge (meeting the span length criteria) may have recently been closed, load posted, or width restricted. We are also looking for projects that can be designed and constructed more expeditiously than other structures meeting the criteria.

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