After acquiring a 13-acre parcel of land in partial exchange for a spec house I’d built, I began to explore my options for dividing the property within the town zoning rules. It was a simple matter to create two new building lots from the original plot, but one of them was on the opposite side of an intermittent stream, with access provided by an old farm culvert. I considered upgrading the culvert to create a safe driveway, but there was another, more creative possibility: The owner of an adjoining parcel on the other side of the stream had a potentially buildable lot, but it was accessible only from my property. So we agreed to a financial partnership in which I would provide access to his site as well.

Massachusetts has strict stream-crossing guidelines, and we had only two practical options. The first was to install an open-bottom arch culvert, which would not disturb the streambed. These arches are typically manufactured off-site and installed on a poured concrete foundation. The approach ramps are usually retained with precast concrete...

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