New Bridge Grant Application

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Northfield seeks $12.5M federal grant to replace Schell Bridge


Staff Writer

Published: 3/3/2023 5:28:03 PM

NORTHFIELD — The town partnered with the state Department of Transportation and WSP Consultants to apply for a federal grant to help replace the Schell Bridge.

MassDOT has requested $12.5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grant program for the bridge that was closed in 1985. However, Mallory Sullivan, Northfield’s grant development director, said the results of the grant application filed on Feb. 28 likely won’t be announced until “much later this year — probably in the fall.”

Town Administrator Andrea Llamas said construction bids are coming in at $49 million to $50 million and the state had pledged $25 million before coming up with an additional $12.5 million, leaving another $12.5 million up in the air.

“So that’s what we’re looking for,” Llamas said.

Sullivan explained construction on the 350-foot steel Pennsylvania truss bridge spanning the Connecticut River began in 1901 and it opened to the public in 1903. The bridge is named after Francis R. Schell, a New York merchant who gave $42,000 for its design and construction.

Authorities closed and barricaded the bridge, Sullivan said, after engineering studies in the 1970s and early 1980s determined it was structurally unsound. The bridge links two sections of Northfield, as the town is the only one in the state that is divided by the Connecticut River.

“So it will be really impactful to have the town connected again,” Sullivan said.

The existing bridge will be replaced with a pedestrian and bicycle bridge. Construction has been estimated to take up to three years once work begins.

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To accompany the grant application, the Selectboard signed a letter to Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. transportation secretary, to indicate its support for MassDOT’s grant request. The letter states replacement of the bridge would eliminate the threat of impending collapse.

“The current structure itself is both a public safety threat and a legal liability,” the letter reads.

Selectboard members also believe the Schell Bridge could be a centerpiece that helps expand business opportunities and positively affect local tax revenue and employment. The letter states the project will create a destination that allows for fresh air, physical distancing “and a connection to the vitality and importance of the Connecticut River.” It will also provide important links to trails, roads and recreational spaces on both sides of the river.

“The board strongly feels that this bridge project will enhance the quality of life, safety and sense of place for the town and region,” the letter reads.

Reach Domenic Poli at: or 413-930-4120.