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Vt. bridges in the spotlight again after Minnesota disaster

It took last weeks Interstate 30Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis, Minn., to place the spotlight back on Vermonts crumbling bridge infrastructure.

After years of state agency of transportation funds being siphoned off for various pet legislative projects not related to either road or bridge repairs, the Mississippi River bridge disaster has put that dangerous fiscal habit in a whole new light in the marble halls of Montpelier.

Before Jim Douglas was first elected governor in 2002, $42 million was taken out of the states transportation budget and used primarily for the state education fund. By arm-twisting the legislature, the Douglas administration has reduced the amount budgeted to transportation to $35 million.

According to the last published agency of transportation inspection data, 193 of 1,077 state-owned bridges and 260 of 1,598 town-owned bridges were classified as structurally deficient.

In the wake of last weeks Minneapolis bridge collapse, Vermont Agency of Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville has announced that inspections of Vermonts bridges will be accelerated.

VTrans kick started its bridge inspections with Bridge 61 over the deep Quechee Gorge on U.S. Route 4 in Hartford last weekend.

Bridge 61 is a steel arch deck truss design, the only such bridge in Vermont that is the closest in design to the collapsed bridge in Minneapolis, according to Lunderville.

Inspectors worked through the weekend to inspect other deck truss bridges around Vermont, too. Deck trusses employ a similar design to steel arch-truss bridges, but are not exactly like the Minneapolis bridge design. By Saturday, Bridge 61 got a thumbs up from inspectors.

Last Saturday, the Vermont inspection team also began inspecting deck trusses (non-arched bridges) in Brattleboro on Interstate 91, over Route 30, and the West River.

A second inspection team was mobilized to begin inspecting the Rockingham I-91 deck trusses. The team will also examine the Route 5 Rockingham deck truss, and the Hartford Town Highway, deck truss from the ground, Lunderville said.

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