You've got to give them an "A" for effort, but another attempt by Vermont officials to repair the Vilas Bridge between Walpole, N.H., and Bellows Falls failed to interest the Granite State.
Sue Minter, the deputy commissioner of the Vermont Agency of Transportation, told us the Green Mountain State had offered to pay for the repairs to reopen the bridge -- which has been closed since 2009 -- if New Hampshire would invest a similar amount in other bridges connecting the two states.
But in an unequivocal response, Granite State officials said no.
Bill Boynton, spokesman for the New Hampshire Department of Transportation, told the Reformer his state has far too many unmet needs and not enough funds to repair a bridge it considers non-essential.
"A viable option for crossing the Connecticut River is nearby," said Boynton, referring to the Arch Bridge, which is less than a mile north of the Vilas Bridge.
It's hard for us to argue with that logic. Communities and states around the country are struggling with how best to fund their immediate and future capital improvement projects. Just look at Brattleboro, which could see a nearly 9 cent increase in its tax rate next year, 5 cents of which will go to fund renovations to its police and fire stations. It's a bitter pill to swallow for a taxpayers who are scratching their heads over how they are going to fit that increase into their already tight budgets, but many of the town's residents have admitted it's a pill that needs to be swallowed.
If there was an acceptable alternative, perhaps they could spit that pill out, but the police and fire departments have been working in their decrepit facilities for too many years.
And then there are the two bridges linking Hinsdale, N.H., and Brattleboro. If there ever was a bridge that is one accident away from a catastrophe, it's the Charles Dana Bridge or the Anna Hunt Marsh Bridge.
Late last year, the New Hampshire Department of Transportation announced the replacement of those two bridges, at a cost of more than $45 million, was part of its 10-year Transportation Plan. It's hoped that commuters that cross those bridges won't have to wait a full 10 years for their replacement, but when the actual work might begin, is not yet known.
Why the Vilas Bridge didn't make the list is apparent. As Boynton noted, Walpole and Bellows Falls have a fine bridge connecting the two communities, and it only takes you a mile or two out of your way. But if you want to get between Hinsdale and Brattleboro without crossing the bridges at Malfunction Junction, you have to drive through Chesterfield, N.H., and down Route 63, or down Interstate 91 to Bernardston and then go north on Route 10 to Route 63. In other words, there is no viable alternative.
While we sympathize with the Bellows Falls business owners who feel they're losing money due to the loss of traffic that flowed through the village when the Vilas Bridge was open, we also sympathize with the taxpayers of New Hampshire, who have already paid for a perfectly good bridge connecting the two states.
So if Vermont really wants to reopen the Vilas Bridge to vehicular traffic, it should just bite the bullet, offer to buy it from the Granite State, and fix it without expecting any funds from our neighbor to the east of the Connecticut River.
It's a pretty simple solution, but in all reality, Vermont is in just as much a fix as New Hampshire when it comes to repairing its crumbling infrastructure. If Vermont did own the Vilas Bridge, it might come to the same conclusion New Hampshire has come to -- use the Arch Bridge and stop complaining.