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Mt. Orne bridge in need of more than collision repair

September 01, 2010
LANCASTER — Attempts from the town to get state assistance for the repair of the Mount Orne Covered Bridge, which connects Lancaster to Lunenburg, Vermont have been unsuccessful, said Lancaster Town Manager Ed Samson.

"There is more damage, deterioration and decay to the bridge than can be absolutely blamed on the alleged truck accident," said Bridge Section Chief David Powelson at the Bureau of Bridge Design.

Mr. Samson has been trying to secure state funds to repair the general deterioration of the Howe truss bridge, originally built in 1911, in the same project as the repair needed following the June collision of a tractor trailer with the bridge.

"It will cost at least $60,000 to repair damage done to the bridge from the truck," said Mr. Samson, adding that it will cost substantially more to cover the repairs required from the natural decay of the bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

The three contractors who submitted proposals for the repair of the damage from the truck propose doing the repairs all at once. Bob Durfee of Dubois and King, Inc. has been contracted by Flynn, Riedel & Young, Inc. Insurance Adjusters for the collision repair of the bridge.

Mr. Durfee worries that, without efforts to temporarily stabilize the bridge, winter weather greatly increases the risk of collapse.

"We've recommended to the town that the repairs to fix the truck damage be done immediately because without that the bridge is really unstable to support wind loads and snow loads," said Mr. Durfee.

As for the repair of the decay, Mr. Durfee estimated the project could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000. Rot has settled in several of the truss blocks, one an estimated four inches. The bridge is part of the NH Department of Transportation Municipal Bridge Aid program, but is not set to get funding until 2018, a date that Mr. Samson worries will be too late for the 99-year-old bridge. However, Mr. Samson is not ready to give up on state funding, especially with the new information that the bridge may not last until 2018.

"I want them to see if there is any means for them to reconsider and offer assistance," said Mr. Samson, if not, he may have to go before the town to ask for the money.

The queue for the Municipal Bridge Aid program goes through 2019, with the funds designated through that year. The state is given $6.5 million each year to repair or replace bridges, and expect the towns to contribute a 20 percent match, making the project's total for each year $8.5 million.

Nancy Mayville, Municipal Highways Engineer at the DOT, said towns can be moved up the queue in emergency situations, but in the case of the Mount Orne bridge, the most pressing damage was cause by a third party and should be covered by insurance. Ms. Mayville does recognize the efficiency of doing all repairs at once, but can make no promises.

"We all know that that's an option that we all want to work towards," said Ms. Mayville, adding that there is an advanced construction fund under which the town could repair the bridge themselves to be repaid later through Municipal Bridge Aid funds when they become available.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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