DUMMERSTON—The long-delayed reopening of the green iron bridge that spans the West River may finally happen soon.
The bridge was to have reopened late last September, but workers found some unexpected rust in some of the upper support members of the bridge that wasn’t part of the original state repair specifications.
Renaud Brothers of Vernon, the main contractor for the job since work began last year, had to replace the rusty support members before the state would allow the bridge to be reopened to traffic.
According to Selectboard Chair Tom Bodett, unlike the Covered Bridge and most other bridges in Dummerston, which the town owns, the iron bridge belongs to the state.
The bridge, built in 1892, is one of Dummerston’s two bridges over the West River. The state appropriated $3.2 million in 2009 to restore the bridge, and even with the delays, the project is still expected to come in under budget.
Chad Greenwood, project engineer for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, said the state is picking up the tab for the additional work, which should be completed by June or July.
The bridge project turned out to be a rather involved job for Renaud Brothers. First, they had to lift the bridge off its foundation, so concrete could be poured to cap off the foundations on each side of the river.
They replaced about half of the steel in the bridge, along with about 13,000 wrought iron rivets. They then sandblasted off all the old lead paint and put on a new coat of its trademark green paint. Finally, they put up new guard rails and rebuilt the approaches to the bridge on Route 30 and Quarry Road.
The grated iron deck on the bridge remains, and the 10 ton weight limit that the bridge has had will remain in place.
Bodett said after much discussion with the state, access to the iron bridge will be allowed at both ends. The state originally wanted a one-way approach from Quarry Road, out of fear that traffic would back up on Route 30.
Covered bridge is next
The iron bridge will need to be opened soon, Bodett said, as repairs to the wing walls supporting the approaches to West Dummerston Covered Bridge are needed.
During repairs to the covered bridge deck in 2009, Bodett said was found that the wing walls were badly deteriorated and in need of urgent repair. The cost of repairs is estimated at about $280,000.
Bodett said the town applied for and received a $200,000 federal Transportation Enhancement Grant. The remainder of the money will come from the town’s West River Crossing Fund, which is a reserve fund the town has kept for just such purposes.
“If — and that is still the operative word — the iron bridge opens this summer as VTrans now expects it will, then the town can put the wing wall project out to bid and hopefully have the work completed by the end of summer,” he said.
Bodett said the work will require the closing of the covered bridge for up to two weeks.
“Even if the iron bridge is open, it is still possible the wing wall project can be delayed by the byzantine approval process required for state and federal funded projects,” he said. “The plans for the wing walls are currently with VTrans for review and approval. If that happens within the month, it will create a new Feast Day akin to the miracle at Lourdes.”
With the iron bridge reopened, and the wing wall repairs to covered bridge completed, Bodett said the town’s West River crossings will be in the best shape they have been in for years.