Damage will keep floating bridge closed for the year, state official says
By LOUIS PORTER Vermont Press Bureau | May 19,2008
MONTPELIER — The floating bridge over Sunset Lake in Brookfield will not reopen for the summer. It is not clear yet how much rebuilding the bridge will cost or when it will be done, but it is very unlikely to reopen this year.
Normally, the 330-foot bridge that carries Route 65 over the lake is reopened each spring. However, bridge inspectors discovered recently that it has become too badly damaged to be safely driven over by vehicles. It will remain open to pedestrians.
"Our bridge inspectors look at it every year before we open it," said Secretary of Transportation Neale Lunderville. "We do not feel it is safe for any kind of passenger vehicles to pass over it."
The bridge, which is 70 years old, is not a span over the water rooted on the banks or on pilings as most bridges are.
Instead it relies on 380 floats to remain on top of the water. The bridge was last reconstructed in 1978 and wooden portions of it are in rough shape, according to the agency.
Drivers will continue to use a 2.7-mile detour through local streets as they do during the winter for the foreseeable future.
"Our engineers and inspectors looked at it this week and decided there is no easy fix," Lunderville said last week.
"We don't have good estimates at this point," Lunderville said, but "it is going to be an expensive repair."
The agency's new prioritization program considers how much use roads and bridges get when determining what order they are put in for major construction work.
The agency has also, where possible, eliminated amenities in those projects to try to stretch transportation money in an era of declining Transportation Fund revenues.
The floating bridge does not get a huge amount of traffic, but neither is it an amenity, according to officials.
"It serves an important transportation role," Lunderville said. "We wish we would be able to open it this year."
However, that is unlikely to happen, Lunderville said.
"Ultimately, we have to make the determination of safety and that is what our inspectors have done," he said.
Contact Louis Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org.