The Ledyard Bridge, which crosses the Connecticut River and links Hanover and Norwich, is currently undergoing renovations that aim to preserve the bridge’s structure without interfering with its historic design, according to Hanover director of public works Peter Kulbacki.
Kulbacki said the renovations include the replacement of the bridge expansion joints, repairs to its concrete deck, replacement of its deck membrane and the removal of a raised concrete island on the bridge. The bridge’s concrete structure will be checked for any deterioration, and necessary repairs will be made, he added. Additionally, the preexisting bike lanes on the bridge will be made “a little bit” wider.
“It’s a preservation project,” Kulbacki said. “By protecting the concrete, construction will extend the life of the deck but will keep [us] from having to rebuild any major structure.”
The New Hampshire Department of Transportation expects all construction on the Ledyard Bridge to be completed by June 2024, according to NHDOT chief for the bureau of bridge design David Scott. Scott added the project is “still on track” with the projected timeline.
Kulbacki estimated that the current repairs will allow the bridge to go without another major overhaul for decades.
“They will probably be done with construction for 20 years or so,” he said.
However, Kulbacki said minor construction projects, such as repaving the bridge and replacing expansion joints, will have to be completed every few years.
While current renovations are being managed by officials from both New Hampshire and Vermont, New Hampshire, which owns the Ledyard Bridge, is overseeing the majority of planning and construction, Scott said.
Scott added that New Hampshire owns the majority of bridges connecting New Hampshire to Vermont as a result of the 1934 Supreme Court case Vermont v. New Hampshire.
“The case established the border of Vermont over on the Vermont shore,” Scott said. “We [New Hampshire] have a greater percentage of almost all the purchases.”
NHDOT officials have taken measures to prevent excess congestion over the bridge during construction, by “providing two lanes of traffic at all times,” Scott said.
He noted that the biggest impacts on traffic are as drivers head towards the College, as renovations have forced the turn lane from the bridge onto Tuck Drive to be temporarily removed ever since April 2023.
“We’ve had to get rid of an exclusive turn lane towards the College,” Scott said. “It will all be back in place once we’re done.”
Kulbacki said traffic on the bridge has increased during busy weekends for the College, such as Parents’ Weekend and Homecoming.
Additionally, Kulbacki said residents have raised concerns over increased traffic on the Ledyard Bridge due to the 18-month closure of the Lyme-East Thetford Bridge nine miles away. He added that the closure of the latter bridge has increased the amount of traffic on Ledyard Bridge.
“Problems with traffic have been exacerbated somewhat because of the closed bridge,” Kulbaki said. “The closure adds to the volume of cars on the bridge.”
Scott noted that while many commuters who traveled across Lyme-East Thetford before its closure may now be redirected to the Ledyard Bridge, the resulting traffic is comparatively low — only 2,100 vehicles used Lyme-East Thetford per day prior to the renovations, according to records from the NHDOT. In comparison, the Ledyard Bridge sees about 13,000 vehicles per day, he said.
Despite the Lyme-East Thetford closure, Norwich Police Department patrol officer Anna Ingraham said she “rarely” sees major build-up on the Ledyard Bridge. Ingraham noted, however, that there is a possibility of a delay during high traffic times in the day, such as before 8 a.m.
“The other day, I did see some traffic stopped on the bridge headed into Hanover, but other than that, I have not seen much,” Ingraham said.
Ingraham said the Norwich Police Department has received “only a few” complaints about the construction from citizens.
“We received a complaint early on in the construction concerning a piece of construction equipment blocking an intersection, and recently, we received a complaint from a bicyclist,” Ingraham said. “But other than that, we don’t have any real complaints.”