A sign alerting residents to the closed bridge was posted at the intersection of Creamery Road and Route 32.
Reminder Publishing photo by Sarah Heinonen

HARDWICK — An emergency meeting between the towns of Hardwick and New Braintree, and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation was called April 4 after the state permanently closed the Creamery Road/Unitas Road bridge between Hardwick and New Braintree the previous day.

Hardwick Town Administrator Nicole Parker said that the bridge was shut down after a routine biennial inspection by MassDOT found “large holes in the web in the south end of the bridge.” She explained that a bridge web is a structure of large metal supports.

The bridge has been “on the slate for DOT to fix it for us,” Parker said. It was scheduled to be included in the fiscal year 2026 state transportation improvement program, in which federal funds are administered by the state to build and repair bridges, roadways, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, as well as address public transportation needs. The process of requesting bids for the bridge project would have begun in summer 2025. Due to the unexpectedly rapid deterioration of the bridge, Parker said the goal is to move up the project, so bids are sought this summer, instead.

“The most important thing is if [MassDOT] can find the funding for us and move things around,” Parker said. Projects would have to be juggled on the TIP’s five-year schedule to accommodate this.

The good news, Parker said, is that “we have positioned ourselves so we can move forward on this fairly quickly.” The road uniting Hardwick and New Braintree had to be accepted as a public way before the bridge project could be addressed, and this was done at Hardwick’s March 21 Town Meeting.

Parker emphasized the importance of the infrastructure. Considering that Hardwick and New Braintree share some municipal services, including the Police Department, she said, “It is very important for emergency vehicles. We must get this bridge open as soon as possible. It is an integral connection between our towns, and the state knows that.”

The DPW set about placing signs and putting up barricades as soon as the decision to close was made by MassDOT. “I really commend our DPW for handling this so quickly, especially with the snowstorm,” Parker said. A spring storm overnight on April 3 left a tree down across Hardwick’s side of the bridge, taking out power lines.

While many aspects of the bridge repair timing remain unsettled, Parker warned residents not to expect the bridge to be reopened soon. A temporary bridge is not possible due to the expense, she said.

“The entire town is doing everything we can within our ability to rectify this situation. We want to make it as smooth and efficient as possible,” she said.

sheinonen@thereminder.com | + posts