By Lisa Loomis

After considerable discussion, the Waitsfield Select Board has opted to replace the current pedestrian sidewalk on Waitsfield’s historic covered bridge with a steel truss bridge.

The new pedestrian sidewalk will be enclosed in wood and the overall exterior of the bridge will not look much different than it currently does. The new sidewalk is necessary because the current sidewalk is twisting the bridge downward.

In 2010, the town received a federal grant for $270,000 to repair the covered bridge. That grant will need to be augmented by local funds as the work needed includes engineering, repair to the existing abutments, permitting and replacing the sidewalk.

The board considered several options for the sidewalk repair, including a detached steel truss bridge (similar to what is found on the Stowe Bike Path) timber arched sidewalk (either enclosed or separate) as well as a pre-fabricated beam/deck bridge.

The board, at its June 13 hearing, chose the enclosed steel truss option, which will cost an estimated $116,000. At that meeting, the board discussed state and federal regulations governing fixtures that are attached to structures that are deemed historic and certified as such.

Federal and state historic preservation regulations discourage towns from trying to recreate a historic element on a certified historic structure, so the town was discouraged from trying to create a sidewalk that historically mimicked the bridge.

Previously the select board had favored an arched wooden sidewalk made of authentic materials that would be separate from the existing bridge. Structural work needed includes dealing with crumbling abutments, lack of support at the approaches, fixing some of the roof rafters, repairing the truss systems and replacing some decking planks and some floor beams.