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Big Bridge Installation Underway

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The partially completed bridge waits to be lifted into place over the Winooski River. Photo by John Lazenby.

The four trusses of the soon-to-be bridge extending the Cross Vermont Trail eastward arrived Wednesday, July 14, but for safety reasons, the curious are cautioned to wait for the announcement of completion before visiting the construction site, explained Cross Vermont Trail Executive Director Greg Western.

The 205-foot-long, 12-foot-wide span will cross the Winooski River at the location of a former railroad bridge in East Montpelier. Pilings for new bridge abutments were driven in November and passed a technical inspection by the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans) on December 4, 2020. Western expects the contractor, CSS Construction of Morrisville, to begin assembly of the structure during the week of July 19.

Last fall Western had hoped the bridge might be in place by spring, but circumstances moved the fabrication of the bridge components from Arizona to Minnesota, where the structure was recently approved by the VTrans.

CCS Construction has a large crane on the site and placed a barge in the river in preparation for assembling the bridge. Once the four trusses are assembled, the crane will lift the entire bridge into place. It is all in the preparation, Western noted, “The actual lifting of the bridge across the river with cranes will take only about an hour.”

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According to Western, the overall cost of the bridge is $1.2 million, with 20 percent from local fundraising and 80 percent from a federal highway grant administered through VTrans. The total cost of the project from Gallison Hill Road to Route 14 will be about $1.6 million. “So you can see the bridge is the big part of it. Fundraising is ongoing for the remainder of the trail work up to Route 14 that will start next year, but all the work planned to happen this year is funded — thanks to many!” Western said.

In August, additional contractors will be doing heavy work along Route 2 for a section of trail continuing east of the bridge. That work will include a new trailhead parking lot on Route 2 and a new guardrail between the path and the highway, according to the Cross Vermont Trail Association’s long-term plans. 

Meanwhile, out of sight of the road, off in the woods, the association is building all the rest of the trails that will make up the full project — including opportunities for local volunteers to help. “We are aiming to have the connection between the end of the Montpelier Bike Path at the Civic Center, up to U-32, across the bridge, and out to the new trailhead on Route 2 open by midsummer 2022,” Western said. 

The Cross Vermont 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 includes the “Penstock & Portage Trails” to provide new public footpaths along the banks of the river, which also will serve as portages for river paddlers.

For the 2023 construction season, the association’s goal is to complete the section of the trail between Route 2 and Route 14 where the existing rail trail starts currently and follows a former rail bed to Plainfield.