Wednesday August 21, 2013

MONTPELIER -- A national group that preserves covered bridges expects to get the needed permits this week to prevent a 140-year-old bridge from falling into a river in the northern Vermont town of Lyndonville.

Once the federal and state permits are in hand, volunteers will get to work quickly to shore up the 120-foot bridge, which has a broken support beam and is sagging badly.

"We’ve got to go ahead here or we will lose a very important and beautiful bridge," said David Wright, president of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges.

Work to save the Sanborn Covered Bridge also will require fundraising, he said.

The bridge is a historically important example of a design by 19th-century New Hampshire bridge builder Peter Paddleford, Wright said. Its owners, who are lifelong Lyndonville residents, have said they don’t have the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would likely take to fix the bridge.

The bridge is no longer connected to roads and is now closed but has been popular with pedestrians and part of a snowmobile trail.

Sanborn estimates the first and second phase of the project --shoring up the bridge, jacking it up to the proper position and repairing the top and bottom chords and some other timbers -- will cost about $160,000.

The bridge will be removed next year and repaired -- the third phase -- for which Wright said he does not yet have estimate.

He hopes the bridge could become a collaborative project that could be turned into a state historic site.

The federal and state permits are needed for the first phase, to add stone fill and timber cribbing on top of it to support the bridge until the permanent repairs can be done, officials said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state Agency of Natural Resources are expediting the permit process.

"We don’t want the bridge to fall into the river any more than anyone else does," said Rob Evans, state flood plain manager.