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By Lisa Loomis
There are five bridges in Waitsfield which the state of Vermont inspects and grades on an annual basis. Those five bridges range in age from one built in 1833 to one built in 1999.
The Vermont Agency of Transportation, Structures Division recently provided a letter and a bridge-by bridge report card to the town of Waitsfield. The four bridges it discusses are the Village Covered Bridge, the Pine Brook Covered Bridge on North Road, the Butternut Hill Bridge and the bridge on the Tremblay Road by the Pines Rest Area.
The state report compares the condition of the local bridge to current federal standards. The 2007 report for the village covered bridge notes that the 'superstructure' rating of that bridge is satisfactory, as is the substructure. The covered bridge, built in 1833 and reconstructed in 1973, fails to meet federal standards which were codified long after the bridge was built. The bridge railings, the approach guardrails and the transitions from bridge to Bridge Street do not meet the current standards. In terms of structural evaluation and deck geometry, the report states that these are 'intolerable, replacement needed.'
The report quotes from a 2004 inspection, which points out that the abutments are in need of repair.
"Most of the deterioration in this area is due to the chronic erosion occurring below the sidewalk as the laid up stone retaining wall fails. Construction of a new retaining wall should be considered," notes the 2004 report.
A 2006 report notes that the bridge is "in fairly good condition. Recent repairs have been made to correct over height vehicle impact damage. The portals have been reconstructed. Tie beams 1, 2, 11, 12 and 13 have been replaced along with six new 'ship knees.' Roughly 75 percent of the original cross bracing has been omitted over the years. Consider adding complete cross brace system in all but the end bays."
By way of comparison, the town received a letter from its insurer, the Vermont League of Cities and Towns, that references an evaluation performed on March 20. That report notes that the 'bridge is in great shape."
The state's report on the Pine Brook Covered Bridge, built in 1872, notes that the bridge's railings and transitions do not meet current standards, nor to the guardrails. The written summary references 2004 and 2006 reports. The 2004 report notes that the bridge is in fairly good conditions and adds, "The following repairs should be considered. Replacement of deteriorated sections of the timber decking. Extensive cleaning, painting and greasing of the steel stringers. . . . Supplement the rotting timber bearing planks below the bolster beams."
The 2006 report notes that the "kneebrace at the upstream king post has been broken out and needs replacement."
The town's newest bridge is the Butternut Hill Bridge, built in 1999, which meets all current state and federal standards, although the written report from 2006 notes that the runners are heavily rotted.
The Meadow Road Bridge, built in 1955 and a topic of discussion amongst select board members reviewing the report on April 9, received passing marks for its superstructure and substructure but is deemed to be in 'fair' condition. The railings, transitions and guardrails do not meet the current standards and the deck geometry is reported to be 'intolerable, replacement needed.'
The state report also notes that, with regard to waterway adequacy, there is a 'slight chance of overtopping bridge and roadway.' (See recollection of this bridge, following this story by Mary Alice Bisbee.)
The final bridge reviewed by the state is the bridge on Tremblay Road by the Pines Rest Area. This bridge, built in 1983, meets and exceeds all current standards.