The Cross Vermont Trail Association has made significant progress on two bridge projects that are critical to opening sections of the trail going east from Gallison Hill Road in Montpelier. The smaller of the two bridges, a modest 50 footer, was completed this fall, said Greg Western, Central Vermont Trail Association director.
The larger project, which has been the focus of grant writing and fund-raising for years, is a 200-foot span that will cross the Winooski River at the location of a former railroad bridge. Pilings for new bridge abutments were driven in November and passed a technical inspection by the Vermont Agency of Transportation on Dec. 4. Western expects the contractor, CSS Construction, may be able to pour concrete soon. “But if the pieces don’t fall into place before winter sets in, we’ll certainly see it open in the Spring,” he said.
The structure of the span itself is being fabricated by a company in Arizona, one of a handful of businesses that specialize in this type of bridge. Again, the Agency of Transportation is monitoring construction and will inspect the bridge components before it is shipped to Vermont.
Currently, the through route of the Cross Vermont Trail uses the wide shoulder of Route 2 from the intersection with Gallison Hill Road to the junction with Route 14 in East Montpelier. “Although the shoulder is wide for much of the way, the traffic is heavy and fast,” said Western, explaining the need for a safer and more scenic route that will follow the historic railbed of the Montpelier & Wells River Railroad.
The U-32 Connection – and More
Along with the installation of this major span, 2021 will see construction of a side trail that will climb through a series of traverses to connect with the existing trail network in the U-32 Woods. The trail association website explains: “The ultimate goal of this project is to connect the school, nearby conserved natural areas, and local neighborhoods with a safe off-road inviting path — the trail will link directly to numerous neighborhoods, including many families with school-age children who will be able to bike to school.”
On the river side of Power Plant Road, the 2020–2022 project plan includes the “Penstock & Portage Trails” to provide new public footpaths along the banks of the river. The paths also will serve as portages for river paddlers. The trailhead improvements will include a parking area.
Onward Toward East Montpelier and Plainfield
Once the new bridge is in place, the trail will run along the bank of the river below Route 2. Near a “hidden dam” about a quarter-mile above the new bridge, plans call for a new trailhead with parking, an access trail to the river shore, a universally accessible fishing platform, and portages.
The trail will continue along the riverbank before crossing Route 2 just below the Country Camper property. Easements have been obtained to connect the trail with Old Railbed Lane into East Montpelier where it will cross Route 14 and continue toward Plainfield. On the section east of Route 14, the recently completed installation of a mere 50 foot bridge circumvents a major washout that occurred during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011. Largely constructed by volunteers, including students from Norwich University, the cost of this bridge was a modest $15,000, said Western.