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)

The Culvert and Small Bridge Working Group, established by an amendment in the fiscal 2019 state budget, is soliciting input from stakeholders to inform its final report to the Legislature.

At a minimum, the group seeks responses to the following questions:
• What challenges have you faced in repairing or replacing culverts and/or small bridges in your communities?

• What opportunities do you see for improvements to engineering standards, permitting processes or funding availability for these types of projects?

Comments, suggestions and responses to these questions should be sent to massdotenvironmental@dot.state.ma.us by May 24. Respondents are asked to include “Culvert Working Group” in the subject line of their email.

The working group was established to review regulations and make recommendations regarding the repair or replacement of the culverts and small bridges (spans of less than 20 feet) in Massachusetts.

The group is asked to:
• Identify and evaluate the costs and benefits of existing environmental rules and regulations, engineering standards and permitting processes, and their impact on the replacement or repair of deteriorated or substandard culverts and small bridges

• Make recommendations to implement cost-effective policies, procedures and guidelines for the replacement or repair of such structures, in an expedited manner

• Make improvements in storm resiliency and natural resource connectivity, which consider degrees of risk, ecological value, cost and efficient permitting

Massachusetts has more than 25,000 known culverts, many of which are reaching the end of their service lifespan or are damaged, undersized or otherwise inadequate and require timely repair or replacement.

Many communities throughout the state – small towns in particular – struggle with regulatory hurdles and engineering costs associated with maintaining or replacing this type of infrastructure. Moreover, municipal officials and public works employees may lack the expertise required to navigate the new environmental standards for stream crossings and climate resiliency. Climate change is an increasing concern for communities when dealing with culvert and small bridge infrastructure, as they need to accommodate increased storm flows, storm frequency and flood levels at these locations.

The Small Bridge Grant Program, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, and the Culvert Replacement Municipal Assistance Grant Program, managed by the Massachusetts Department of Fish and Game, were created to assist municipalities with direct funding for small bridge and culvert projects. Even with these resources, municipalities would require a significant investment of financial and technical resources to address the total culvert repair and replacement need.