Celebration Marks Opening Of Bartonsville Bridge

01/28/13 7:34AM By Susan Keese
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AP/Toby Talbot
Workers put the finishing touches on the Bartonsville Bridge on Friday in Rockingham. Its predecessor was swept away by the raging Williams River during flooding from Tropical Storm Irene. The new Bartonsville bridge has been under construction for the la

More than a hundred people braved frigid temperatures Saturday to celebrate the opening of the new Lower Bartonsville covered bridge.

The single-lane, lattice-truss bridge is modeled on its 140 year old predecessor, which was swept into the Williams River in Tropical Storm Irene.

A widely viewed YouTube video of the collapse, picked by the media, became a symbol of the devastation Vermont suffered in the storm.

At the ribbon cutting, Vermont Congressman Peter Welch recalled the power of that image, and Vermont's powerful response.

"And today the reopening of the bridge is emblematic of how Vermonters decided, we've got a new job to do, recover from this storm we've got to do it together, and we did it. There's more to be done. But this is a very happy day," Welch said.

Among those celebrating was Lower Bartonsville native Sue Hammond, who shot the video and led the charge to see the bridge rebuilt. 

On a recent morning so cold the snow squeaks under foot, Sue Hammond heads toward the new Lower Bartonsville covered bridge. It's a quarter-mile walk she's made over and over since construction began in September

With an assortment of cameras and video flipbooks, Hammond documented the entire process.

Hammond greets the construction crew as it finishes up a few last bits and pieces.

Then she hops onto an earthen platform where the bridge was assembled. The workspace spans the river just upstream, parallel to the new bridge.

"They laid out the trusses on this platform, put them all together and they lifted each side as they finished it," Hammond explained. "Then after they completed all four sides they moved it into its final spot on the abutments."

Heading home, Hammond stops at the spot where she shot the now-iconic video of the old bridge collapsing during Tropical Storm Irene.

Hammond never dreamed her video, or the bridge, would capture so much national interest. She'd posted it on YouTube for her siblings, who grew up playing on the bridge and swimming beneath it in this village of about 30 homes,

After the town of Rockingham agreed to a new covered bridge, Hammond started posting updates on Facebook for a wider audience.

"It was a fascinating process to watch it come together," Hammond said. 

First new bridge abutments had to be built. Sitting at her laptop, Hammond finds a clip of a jackhammer driving pilings into bedrock.

"You could hear the pounding of those steel beams going in for miles around. The foundation is pretty secure I would say," Hammond said.

The lattice on the sides was fastened together with oak pegs, pounded in by hand. Each of the two sides is 171 feet long.

"One of the most exciting moments was when the first side of the lattice truss structure was raised by the crew. They did it with six guys and a pulley system," Hammond said. 

The video shows the men using chains and rollers to inch the assembly upright.

Hammond says the highlight for her was when the crew invited her to take a turn helping to move the bridge off the platform and into place.

"It wasn't that much different than how they would have done it in 1870. They set up a system of rollers using a come-along to inch it over.It's a big bar attached to a chain and as you pull it to the front the bridge moves slightly on the rollers," Hammond explained.

It took about six hours to move the bridge to its permanent location. Hammond says that when she saw its portals lined up with the road, it was like having an old friend back.

And now, as of this past Saturday, the bridge is no longer just a sight on the landscape. It once again carries traffic and people across the Williams River.

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