Vermont town hopes to replace destroyed covered bridge

Vermont News

The River Road Covered Bridge in Troy, VT collapsed into the Missisquoi River on February 6, 2021 after a broken-down snowmobile set it on fire. (Photo courtesy Vermont State Police)

TROY, Vt. (AP) — Officials in the Vermont town of Troy are beginning the process of determining whether they will be able to replace the town’s 111-year-old covered bridge that was destroyed by a fire, a town official said Monday.

The fire started in a snowmobile that was crossing the 92-foot bridge at about 11 a.m. Saturday and it spread to the structure, collapsing it into the Missisquoi River in the town of Troy, located just south of the Canadian border in northern Vermont.

“We are hoping for some funding,” Town Clerk Terri Medley said Monday. “Everybody wants to see it rebuilt.”

There are around 100 covered bridges in Vermont recognized by the Vermont Covered Bridge Society. While they are held up as historic relics they are also a key part of the road networks in many communities.

Covered bridges are also regularly damaged in Vermont when they are hit by vehicles that are too large to pass through them.

In August 2011, a covered bridge in the town of Rockingham was swept away by flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. The destruction of the original bridge, which was built in the 1870s, was captured on video. The video became an iconic image of Irene’s fury.

Construction on a new covered bridge in Rockingham, modeled after the original, began in 2012. The bridge opened to traffic in 2013.

In 2016 a covered bridge linking Salisbury and Cornwall was destroyed by a fire. The two towns are now renting a temporary bridge from the state while they make long-term plans for replacing it, including whether to build another covered bridge, said Paul Vaczy, the chair of the Salisbury selectboard.

“So much time has elapsed, I think the interest for a covered bridge has slowly dissipated,” Vaczy said Monday.

The bridge in Troy, known as the School House or River Road bridge, was built in 1910. It has several unusual architectural details and it survived a fire before, although no one is sure when, said Edwin Loveland, of Rutland, a member of the Vermont Covered Bridge Society.

“There are not a lot of bridges left in Vermont that use that style,” Loveland said Monday. “We really hope they rebuild it.”

On Saturday, a group of snowmobilers was using the covered bridge when one of the snowmobiles broke down. The operator noticed there was fire coming from the snowmobile and attempted to put out the fire by throwing snow on it.

The fire continued to grow out of control until it eventually caught the wood frame of the bridge. The bridge then collapsed into the river.

The bridge is no longer usable; it will have to be removed by heavy equipment.

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