Taftsville Covered Bridge to Reopen Two Years After Irene
Construction workers put the finishing touches on the Taftsville covered bridge in Taftsville, Vt. on August 20, 2013. The bridge, which was damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, is expected to open September 7. Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Paul West, left, videos the demolition of the Quechee Associates Real Estate building on his phone in Quechee, Vt. on August 20, 2013. Paul worked at Quechee Associates with his wife, and his mother Barbara owned the building, which was critically damaged during Tropical Storm Irene, prior to the FEMA buyout that will convert the land into a pocket park. "We were there for a long time, we'll miss it," said West. "I'm trying to see the silver lining on it, but it's hard." Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage Purchase photo reprints »
Taftsville — The Taftsville Covered Bridge is scheduled to reopen in two weeks, restoring a key link between area villages that was severed when Tropical Storm Irene came through two years ago.
Area business owners expressed their excitement Tuesday for the grand reopening, saying the bridge will reestablish a connection among Taftsville, Woodstock and Quechee.
“It’s going to be huge,” said Taftsville Country Store co-owner Courtney Brooks. “We are going to welcome all of our friends back.”
Store owners Courtney and Vickie Brooks, said their business has struggled since Aug. 28, 2011 when Tropical Storm Irene pounded the Taftsville Covered Bridge and made it impassable.
The Brooks’ said since that dark day in August, the store has seen a 30 to 40 percent decline in business — a situation they hope will turn around come September.
“Hopefully the traffic patterns will resume and we will get back the lost business that we have been dealing with for the last two years,” Vickie Brooks said. “We have literally hung on month to month. When the bridge first closed after the flood, we, like any business, had a cushion, but that was quickly used up.”
The owners, however, see brighter days ahead.
Horst Dresler, owner of Anything Printed, which is located along Route 4 within a half mile of the Taftsville bridge, said he initially saw a fall-off in business right after the bridge closed, but that his customers’ worked around it. Dresler said his patrons from the other side of the Ottauquechee river scheduled a trip once a week to cross the river and come to his business.
“A lot of my clients were able to adapt,” Dresler said . “The opening will bring everyone back together.”
The Taftsville Covered Bridge was initially scheduled to open in late June, said Jim Ligon, project superintendent for Alpine Construction, of Schuylerville, N.Y., the company rebuilding the bridge. Once the dismantling of the existing bridge began, however, problems were discovered, Ligon said, which delayed the reopening.
“With these bridges — in the initial inspection, you can’t see all of the timbers and you can’t see all of the damages until it’s dismantled,” Ligon said, adding severe damage resulted in extra work and pushed back the completion date into September. The new bridge cost around $2.5 million, approximately $100,000 over budget, Ligon said.
According to a news release, Woodstock Historical Society President Charlie Wilson stated the traffic count on the Taftsville bridge prior to the flood was around 1,100 cars per day.
Reopening the bridge “will reestablish normal access for traffic flow across the river at an important crossing point,” he stated.
Woodstock Highway Superintendent David Green said the Taftsville bridge had been in line to have regularly scheduled rehabilitation performed prior to the overhaul of the bridge. However, Tropical Storm Irene threw a wrench in those plans.
After the storm came through, Wright Brothers Construction was contracted to dismantle a portion of the damaged structure, in preparation for Alpine Construction to come in and start construction on the new bridge, said Butch Colby, with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
After months of planning, Alpine Construction broke ground on Oct. 1, 2012. Just shy of one year later, Colby announced the bridge will reopen by the close of the workday, Friday, Sept. 6.
The bridge’s grand reopening ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 7. The event will include a ribbon cutting ceremony, a parade with antique and classic cars, and horses, a barbecue, live music and more.
Tropical Storm Irene also destroyed the neighboring Quechee Bridge, which was restored and later reopened in Dec. 2012. Demolition started Tuesday on a building that abuts the Quechee Bridge — once owned by Barbara West of Quechee Associates, a real estate business. The building was purchased by the town as part of a federal mitigation buyout program and once the construction company is through, the land will become a park or parking lot, as no structures can be rebuilt on the flood plain .
Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3248.