By Eric Francis
QUECHEE – Putting a temporary bridge in place to reconnect downtown Quechee with Route 4 above Waterman Hill would probably do more harm in the long run than good in the short term, members of the Hartford selectboard said late Tuesday.
The town commissioned the engineering firm DuBois & King to scout out places a temporary span might be erected in order to carry vehicles and pedestrian traffic into the downtown while repairs are carried out to the badly damaged Quechee Covered Bridge during the 2012 and 2013 construction seasons.
The firm’s report, which was received late last week, identified two suitable spots – one from River Street near the base of Waterman Hill over to the Quechee Green and the other on Izzo Lane, which runs along the western edge of the VINS Raptor Center to the Quechee Sewer plant, clear over to Quechee Main Street – but in each case, the temporary bridge would have to be 300-feet-long with a price tag of at least a million dollars.
“It would be spending good money after bad,” Hartford Selectboard Chairman Alex Defelice opined Tuesday following the selectmen’s regular meeting, adding, “It doesn’t make any sense to me,” because Hartford will probably have to contribute a large sum in a couple of years time as the town’s share to augment whatever Federal Highway Administration funds are eventually allocated to refurbish the Quechee Covered Bridge.
Selectman Mark Donka pointed out the other big reason that Quechee’s enthusiasm for a temporary solution to the present 3-mile detour suddenly evaporated: the realization that the local definition of “temporary” and that used by the federal government are two different things.
“In the beginning there was a lot of interest (in a temporary bridge) but when we explained that putting one in would move (the real bridge replacement) to the bottom of the heap of federal priorities most people changed their mind,” Donka said, adding that the addition of a durable temporary structure which would be strong enough to stand for a decade or more on its own, “takes all of the urgency out of ever replacing it.”
Selectmen also downplayed the remaining option in the report, which was to thread just a small temporary foot bridge over the broken covered bridge span to allow for pedestrian access. Given the small handful of people living on Waterman Hill that such a foot bridge would likely service at a cost estimated around $130,000, plus the potential liability issues if anyone got hurt using it, Selectman Ken Parker noted, “I don’t think that idea is getting any traction either.”
This article first appeared in the December 8th edition of the Vermont Standard.