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Historic Brandon span is dismantled for repair
October 20, 2002 (from the Rutland Herald, County section)
By ED BARNA Herald Correspondent

BRANDON - The Sanderson covered bridge is no longer covered. In fact, at least temporarily, it isn't even a bridge any more.
       As the first step in an $830,000 repair job, the Blow & Cote construction company of Morrisville has used cranes to systematically remove the 160-year-old wooden structure from its Otter Creek crossing on Pearl Street.
Sanderson Bridge. Photo by Joe Nelson, 1997
Sanderson Bridge
Photo by Joe Nelson, 1997
       According to Brandon Public Works director Bruce Rounds, the work that began Aug. 19 has this month brought the dismantling of the 132-foot bridge's roof, then the siding, then the floor, then the cross-timbers linking the two sides. The sides, known as trusses, are what hold up a covered bridge. The Sanderson Bridge's two trusses known as Town lattices after their inventor, Ithiel Town now lie on their sides by the river where they can be further dismantled.
       The bridge was closed in 1987 after a state bridge inspection found serious deficiencies in the timber-framed structure. Among other problems, its metal roofing had ended at the edge of the roof, without any eaves, so that water kept running down the sides and ultimately rotting out key timbers at the bottom of the bridge. Also, the Select Board realized that trucks using the bridge-- even the town's loaded dump trucks doing road maintenance-- were exceeding the statutory 8-ton limit for wooden bridges. The contract for the bridge restoration specifies that it should safely carry 20 tons.
       At first, voters decided to save the old bridge as a pedestrian and bicycle crossing, and create a concrete and steel bridge at a new crossing north of the present site. But during a preliminary investigation of the proposed crossing route, state-contracted archaeologists discovered a wealth of Native American remains, which they said should be researched before any road is built. When it became clear that the scientific investigation might add as much as $200,000 to the cost--meaning a $20,000 local share at that time--there was a petitioned re-vote.
       The second town meeting chose to rebuild and reinforce the old bridge. The importance of the archaeological site can be seen in the way the Division for Historic Preservation has ordered Blow & Cote to keep their operations out of the cornfield on the north side of Pearl Street, Rounds said.
       Artifacts from the first digs were supposed to come to Brandon for a historic exhibit, but are still somewhere in New Jersey, he said.
       Among covered bridge preservationists, the idea of beefing up covered bridges to carry 20-ton loads has become controversial. Typically, many of the original timbers are replaced by synthetic materials like glue-laminated boards, or glulam. Rounds said every effort will be made to retain original wood, though most of it will have to be replaced due to extensive damage. There will have to be some glulam, but it will be hidden below the bridge, rather than changing the historic appearance of the structure, he said.
       Round said reconstruction of the bridge itself might be completed by January. With other work on foundations and the site, the entire project has a tentative completion date of June 2003.
       Adding all the previous expenses to the contract with Blow & Cote, it will cost about $1.2 million to put the Sanderson bridge back in place and remove the temporary steel girder bridge that has connected Brandon and Sudbury for 15 years, Rounds said.
       Federal covered-bridge money obtained by Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt., had been targeted for the work, but due to scheduling, that money will actually help with other bridges on the Agency of Transportation repair list.
       Waiting for 15 years has had one positive effect, Rounds noted. The local share has swung between 10 percent and 5 percent, but now is pegged to be only 5 percent, or $41,500 for this year's work. The Select Board has already allocated money for the project in regular budgets.

[Ed Barna is Author of "Covered Bridges of Vermont," Countryman Press, and is on the Board of Directors of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society - Ed.]

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267,
This file posted November 2, 2002