New Bartonsville Covered Bridge wins engineering merit award
By Susan Smallheer
Staff Writer | March 04,2014
Photo by Len Emery
The now completed Bartonsville Bridge spans the Williams River after the original was destroyed in August of 2011 by Tropical Storm Irene.
BARTONSVILLE — The 2013 Bartonsville Covered Bridge has been recognized by a national engineering group.
The 168-foot bridge, 17 feet longer but a close replica of the 1871 bridge that was swept away by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, has been honored by the American Council of Engineering Companies as an engineering excellence merit winner.
The bridge was nominated by Clough Harbour & Associates, whose engineer, Phil Pierce, designed the new bridge for the Town of Rockingham.
The bridge was built and reopened in 17 months after Irene hit, leaving the hamlet of Lower Bartonsville cut off and the town without one of its historic icons. The bridge reopened Jan. 26, 2013. It was constructed by Cold River Bridges of Walpole, N.H.
Dale Gozalkowski of Clough Harbour praised Pierce’s work translating the historic structure and making it 21st-century strong, so that it could handle school buses, fire trucks and some snowplows.
Gozalkowski praised Pierce “for his passion and yeoman’s effort leading us through the technical intricacies of this wonderful structure.”
Pierce, who had worked on Rockingham’s other covered bridges, designed the new bridge from scratch, including new abutments along the Williams River to support the longer and taller structure.
The new bridge is the longest covered bridge of its kind, a Town lattice truss covered bridge.
The new bridge used traditional materials, he said. It is stronger than the original, and can hold a school bus, fire truck and one of the smaller-sized snow plow trucks, town officials said. “Replacing the destroyed structure with one that so conscientiously replicates critical components continues Vermont’s long tradition of supporting its precious covered bridge population,” Gozalkowski wrote in his nomination papers. “Although a more modern steel bridge cost slightly less considering the initial construction cost, the town’s officials did not hesitate to commit to an increased cost for a timber structure because it was such an important feature to the community.”
“We love it,” said Rockingham Select Board member Susan Hammond, who gained national attention back in August 2011 when she caught the bridge’s demise during the flood on video. Hammond has since been elected to the town board.
Hammond said she hoped the engineering award was the first of several awards for the bridge.
Hammond said she was working on plans to build a kiosk near the new bridge with materials from the old bridge — in the form of the original covered bridge.
The town has paid the Vermont League of Cities and Towns about $16,000 for the rights to use the old, salvaged materials from the bridge in order to build the new tourist information kiosk, she said.
The League, which had insured the bridge for $1 million had paid for its removal from a field downstream and had stored the remnants nearby.
“Quite a bit of it is intact,” said Hammond, who grew up in Bartonsville, and returned to live in her hometown a few years ago after a career abroad.
The town still has to negotiate the exact location of the covered bridge kiosk, she said, since the railroad owns the site Hammond had originally hoped to use, the former foundation of the Bartonsville train station.
Instead, it will be built on land jointly owned by the town and state. “It will be outside the railroad right of way, but it will be near the bridge,” she said. “We’ve got to iron that out.”
The kiosk will include a history of the bridge and Bartonsville, as well as other attractions in Rockingham, she said, including the town’s other covered bridges.
Hammond said the $60,000 that was donated to the town after the bridge was destroyed will be used to buy the materials, and she expected most of the labor needed to build the kiosk would be donated. Some of the donated money will be used to insure the kiosk is handicapped accessible.