A bridge too far

Ever since Middlebury's Three Mile Road bridge burned in 1958, there's been speculation among the important people in Addison County's shiretown-and-village that a new in-town bridge would be a suitable replacement-especially as an alternate route for traffic moving along the U.S. Route 7 corridor.

For at least the last half-century, the alignment of choice for the in-town bridge has been for the north end to be very near the town offices and Main Street, the bridge itself (now known hopefully as the Cross Street Bridge) heading south across the Creek past the municipal parking lot to land among the streets on the south bank. For reasons too convoluted to detail here, it remains unbuilt.

A quarter-century ago, I wrote for another newspaper; in a column on the bridge subject then, I suggested that it pay its own way by serving as the site for rent-paying shops and housing on both sides of the travel lanes.

It was not a particularly innovative idea on my part: An earlier example, the famous London bridge, was built some eight centuries earlier over the Thames River. The Normans had pretty much consolidated their control over most of Britain after an invasion which changed the country's future from Anglo-Saxon to Norman-English. (Florence's vintage Ponte Vecchio is similar in concept.)

Not more than a score of years ago, a 19th century Thames River replacement (sans shops and housing, and therefore taxpayer funded) was taken down stone-by-stone after an American purchase. It now spans a cul-de-sac waterway near Lake Havasu City, Ariz., while a modern replica spans the Thames (also sans rentable revenue-generating space). It is free to users while funded by users and non-users alike.

The important people in Middlebury didn't like my idea of a bridge-as-profit center back in the 1980s ( a selectman telephoned my house to berate me for presuming to offer a different option and not admiring the "hundreds of hours spent" in a fruitless pursuit of an acceptable design) abd still don't think much of it today.

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