Covered bridge closes

MIDDLEBURY-WEYBRIDGE - President James Monroe was in the White House and the Pine Tree State, Maine, joined the Union when the venerable Pulp Mill Covered Bridge was under constructed in 1820.

The venerable span is now showing its advanced age; it has been rebuilt several times.

Middlebury and Weybridge officials closed the bridge over Otter Creek for one day, July 19, for temporary repairs. Heavily battered deck planking in both lanes can easily snag narrow tires passing over them.

The new repairs were done in one day order to maintain the twin-lane covered bridge another year or so until it is fully restored, possibly in 2011.

Approximately 2,000 cars and light trucks traverse the almost 200-year-old span every day.

At 195 feet in length, Pulp Mill Covered Bridge is the only two-lane covered bridge in Vermont that is still in daily use. Currently, the span can support four tons, but only one vehicle per lane is permitted on the bridge for safety reasons.

The bridge's unique architecture-called a Burr arch, double-barrel truss-helped place it on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places in 1974.

In July 2002, the bridge was closed for several weeks while work progressed on supporting its middle truss. At that time, the deck was removed to gain access to the aging chord. Work is now needed on the structure's outside truss chords.

According to the Vermont Agency of Transportation, the first effort to maintain bridge began in the 1860s with plank arches. Then, two concrete piers with hardwood cribbing were constructed in 1979. Work was also done on the trusses in 1991.

The one-of-a-kind bridge takes it name from a 19th century pulp wood mill that stood nearby. Both the towns of Weybridge and Middlebury now maintain the historic span.

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