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Of common sense & bridges

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Middlebury and Weybridge selectmen were right to reject the state’s plan to close the Pulp Mill Bridge for up to a year for renovations before the town’s proposed Cross Street Bridge was built. The state’s plan would leave the town with just the Battell Bridge on Main Street to cross the Otter Creek — a move that would cripple the downtown’s retail district and frustrate residents who already face traffic jams there several times throughout each day.

It’s as if the town’s shortage of bridges across the Otter Creek has been lost on the state transportation agency, even though the town has been pressing its need for a second span for more than 50 years and has been hard at work on the Cross Street Bridge for the past several years.

Let’s hope the selectboard’s message to do the work on the Pulp Mill Bridge after the Cross Street Bridge is in use is taken to heart and honored.

As important is that the work on the Pulp Mill Bridge is dictated by common sense, not sabotaged by misguided — though well-intended — strictures. In this case, the Vermont Historic Covered Bridge Committee must sign off on any improvements or changes to the bridge, which is being renovated at a cost of over $2 million. The current bridge has structural design flaws, according to at least one expert, that should be corrected as part of the renovation. The state’s plan, however, preserves those design flaws (thus weakening the bridge) in order to maintain its historical integrity. Such stupidity, if the alleged flaws would weaken the bridge, would make a mockery of the state’s historical preservation efforts.

A proposal to correct the flaws and construct a nearby educational exhibit detailing the original architecture — and the design flaw that was corrected — is a reasonable suggestion (see story Page 1A) that we also hope will be honored.

What’s alarming, on both fronts, is that the town had to ask.

Angelo S. Lynn

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