An undersized culvert on Benton Hill Road in Becket led to a road being washed out during Hurricane Irene in 2011. With funds from a MEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant, the crossing was replaced in 2017 to meet newer stream crossing standards. (photo from Division of Ecological Restoration Annual Report)

A working group on culvert and small bridge replacement projects has submitted its draft report to Sen. Adam Hinds and the Legislature.

The Massachusetts Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group, created by an amendment to the fiscal 2018 state budget and co-chaired by the Department of Transportation and Department of Fish and Game, met monthly from February through May. Subcommittees were charged with delving into engineering standards, permitting requirements and stakeholder engagement.

The working group estimates that there are 25,000 culverts and small bridges in Massachusetts, many of which are nearing the end of their lifespan and are in need of replacement or upgrades. Project costs are high, particularly for small and rural communities, and complying with environmental engineering standards and permitting requirements can be a challenge.

The working group’s recommendations are arranged in eight categories:

• Advance the recommendations and actions of the State Hazard Mitigation and Climate Change Adaptation Plan
• Continue the working group
• Expand technical assistance and training programs
• Expand grant programs and provide additional financing options
• Provide additional agency capacity
• Conduct research and pursue innovations
• Revise engineering standards
• Streamline environmental permitting

The MMA chaired the stakeholder engagement subcommittee and helped solicit input from municipal officials and employees regarding their experiences with culvert and small bridge replacement projects, as well as suggestions for improvement. Stakeholder input was incorporated into the draft report.

The working group intends to make the full report available to the public for review and comment shortly. Questions regarding the group and its draft recommendations can be directed to MMA Legislative Analyst Ariela Lovett at alovett@mma.org.

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