Return to front page   Go to Historic Bridge Easement

Draft Only - July 7, 1998


       This document establishes the Vermont Historic Bridge Program (the Program) for historic covered bridges, metal truss bridges, masonry arch bridges, and concrete arch bridges, and it establishes separate divisions within the parent program. The Program and its divisions call attention to the fact that Vermont's historic bridges are resources of distinct value to the state, with particular benefits and also particular problems. The Program explicitly recognizes that there are economic, aesthetic, and educational benefits achieved by preserving a meaningful collection of different types of historic bridges, and that these benefits far outweigh costs associated with preserving these bridges. Reasonably stated, if the benefits of preserving historic bridges accrue to the people of Vermont, the associated costs necessary to obtain these benefits are properly assigned to state government.
       The Program provides an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the value of proper maintenance in preserving manageable classes of bridges. Rehabilitation of those historic bridges capable of serving continued highway use will represent a considerable cost-savings to the people of Vermont. Adapting those historic bridges no longer capable of continued highway use to alternative transportation uses, or converting them to recreational and historic sites, will also produce substantial long term economic. benefits.

Organization of Historic Bridge Program

       The Program has been formally established by execution of a Programmatic Agreement dated July 7, 1998, among the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VAOT), the Vermont State Historic Preservation Officer (VSHPO), and the Vermont Agency of. Natural Resources (VANR).. The Program will be managed by VAOT, which will organize and administer project development for all bridges enrolled in the Program. Bridges that are eligible for, or listed on, the National Register of Historic Places and have been identified in an historic bridge preservation plan are eligible for inclusion in the Program. Historic bridge preservation plans are developed according to bridge type and are complete upon execution by FHWA, VAOT and VSHPO.
       State-owned bridges identified by any historic bridge preservation plan are automatically enrolled in the Program when the preservation plan has been executed by FHWA, VAOT and VSHPO. Town-owned bridges are enrolled in the Program according to the procedure described in Part 3.

Town Participation

       Approximately 90% of Vermont's historic bridges are owned by towns, cities, or villages, are located on local roads, and serve local transportation needs. Collectively these historic bridges represent a vitally important capital and cultural asset for the people of Vermont. However, while some are superbly maintained and preserved, others are neglected .and overlooked. It is critical that a well-defined, cooperative agreement between the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VAOT) and towns owning historic bridges be implemented if these important resources are to be preserved.
       To address this objective and to efficiently provide for the long-term preservation of these historic bridges, towns are invited to participate in the Program. By signature of their governing bodies to a document titled "Historic Bridge Participation Agreement" (sample copy attached), towns, cities, and villages will enroll in the Historic Bridge Program. To encourage town participation, VAOT will pay all costs of future rehabilitation or restoration for bridges that have been enrolled in the Program for continued highway use, subject to the requirements regarding maintenance described in Part 4, herein, and will agree to undertake such work according to the Secretary of the Interior's Standards for Historic Preservation Projects.
       In return, towns will agree to preserve bridges that have been enrolled in the Program in perpetuity, subject to loss or damage by catastrophe or by other circumstances beyond human control. Towns will signify their commitment to preserve the identified bridge(s) by granting an "Historic Bridge Preservation Easement" (sample copy attached) to VAOT.

Bridge Maintenance

       Success of the Program will also depend upon scheduled maintenance of historic bridges in order to prolong their continued use. Ultimately, too, sustained maintenance will account for substantial cost savings. To encourage proper maintenance, VAOT will establish a bridge maintenance schedule for each historic bridge enrolled in the Program.        To encourage towns and cities to participate in the Program, VAOT will fund maintenance costs for all town-owned bridges that have been enrolled in the Program and that remain in highway use. Periodically, VAOT will remove spot rust, will apply suitable primer and paint, and will coat-steel at bearing points and at joints with grease. Towns will be required to furnish the equivalent of matching funds by conducting the following tasks, as appropriate for specific bridge types:
(a) Cleaning bridge components with water or compressed air and removing large deposits of debris with hand tools.
(b) Keeping drainage areas free of debris and channeling deck drains and approach run-off away from bridge elements below.
(c) Removing all small trees and shrubs growing in, on, or near substructure units or under the bridge.
(d) Removing any debris that accumulates in the channel beneath the structure.
(e) Maintaining proper load posting and advance warning signs and keeping all signs visible.
(f) Maintaining smooth transition between approach roadway and bridge deck, maintaining a straight and continuous rail, and repairing minor damage caused by accidents.
       VAOT will, develop a mechanism to assure performance of these scheduled maintenance tasks. Failure on the part of towns to conduct proper maintenance will result in a reduction of the amount, pursuant to Part 3 herein, that VAOT will pay to towns for rehabilitation or restoration of town-owned highway bridges enrolled in the program from 100% of all costs to 95% of all costs.

Bridge Rehabilitation and Restoration

       Success of the Program will depend upon scheduled rehabilitation of historic bridges. For purposes of this Program, work that qualifies as rehabilitation or restoration includes, but is not limited to, the replacement of any deck or any structural members due to advanced deterioration or to less than acceptable load capacity, and full painting.
       VAOT will establish a bridge rehabilitation or restoration schedule for each historic bridge enrolled in the Program, with separate schedules for bridges that will remain in highway use and bridges that are placed in adaptive use. The schedule will be reviewed annually for those historic bridges that will remain in highway use, and every five years for bridges placed in adaptive use. All work will be conducted according to that schedule. As part of this program, VAOT will pay all costs for rehabilitation or restoration of bridges that will remain in highway use.

Adaptive Use

       Success of the Program will depend upon a viable system for preserving bridges that can no longer serve highway uses at their existing locations. To meet this need, qualifying bridges will be adapted to alternative transportation uses at their existing sites or will be relocated for either continued but limited highway use or alternative transportation uses such as pedestrian and bicycle paths, snowmobile trails, recreational sites, or simply historic sites.
       The Agency of Transportation will assume responsibility for relocating and rehabilitating all historic bridges that can no longer serve highway uses at their existing locations, including:
(a) Identification of new locations for bridges that will continue to serve highway use;
(b) Identification of new locations and new owners, including the Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, for bridges that will be adapted to alternative transportation uses;
(c) Providing engineering services for relocation and rehabilitation plans;
(d) Providing annual appropriations to fund the relocation, restoration, and adaptation of bridges enrolled in the Program to alternative transportation uses. The recommended annual appropriation will be $500,000, but amounts may vary depending upon yearly requirements and cost estimates. Eligibility for funding of future maintenance, rehabilitation, or restoration will be evaluated according to policies established by the Adaptive Use Program.
(e) Undertaking any legislative initiatives, whether federal or state, necessary to implement relocation and adaptive use or to fund relocation and adaptive use;
(f) Undertaking initiatives to develop partnerships with the Department of Corrections to supply timber for bridge decks and other appropriate materials, as well as labor as permitted;
(g) Providing interpretive markers identifying bridges that have been relocated.
       An Adaptive Use Committee will be established to advise the manager of the Adaptive Use Program about the selection of sites for bridges being converted to alternative transportation uses at new locations. The committee shall consist of one representative from VSHPO, one representative from FHWA, and the Manager of the Adaptive Use Program, who shall chair the committee and convene meetings periodically as required, but at least once yearly.

Education and Heritage Tourism

       Success of the Program will also depend upon a viable educational effort devoted to increasing public awareness regarding the benefits of preserving historic bridges. Accordingly, VAOT and VSHPO will develop a schedule for meeting with town officials, public works engineers, and district transportation engineers, and will prepare a standard educational presentation. Seminars and workshops will be coordinated through the regional planning commissions. The Historic Bridge Program will be explained at meetings conducted in each region, and Bridge Preservation Plans will be distributed to town representatives via regional commissions.
       Educational efforts will also include promotion through Heritage Tourism, and a cooperative plan will be developed with the Department of Tourism and Marketing. A map showing the location of all bridges in the program will be prepared and made available for distribution via a variety of possible resources.

Return to top

Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267, jcnelson@together.net

No part of this web site may be reproduced without the written permission of Joseph C. Nelson
This file revised March 18, 2002