Bellows Falls Citizens Push for Bridge Repairs
07/19/12 11:54AM Meg Young
Residents of Rockingham and Bellows Falls are concerned that since the closing of an historic arch bridge connecting Bellows Falls to Walpole, New Hampshire, the decreased flow of traffic into their community has been hurting local businesses and causing traffic flow problems.
The residents convened at a meeting last month to discuss the fate of the Vilas Bridge.
In the select board minutes, Thomas MacPhee, the Chairman of Rockingham's Select Board, said the closing of the Vilas Bridge not only caused economic hardship, but also presented "a major safety issue to both Vermont and New Hampshire."
However, renovations of the bridge are currently stalled until New Hampshire state planners decide to allocate funds to repairing the bridge. Mike Hedges, the structures program manager for the Vermont Agency of Transportation, says Vermont will plan to match New Hampshire's schedule for the bridge's rehabilitation. Unfortunately, New Hampshire's transportation plans defer the repairs of the Vilas Bridge until 2015, and the construction may be delayed even longer.
Although there was some discussion at the meeting of obtaining funding for the bridge as a historical landmark, New Hampshire Department of Transportation design chief David Scott cautioned that the bridge is just one of many beautiful landmarks seeking funding in New Hampshire.
Until the bridge repairs can be completed, Bellows Falls and Rockingham may pursue some other measure to mitigate traffic problems, Hedges says. This might include installing a four way stop at the Vermont end of the Arch Bridge in order to make it easier for drivers to get off the bridge into Rockingham.