Featured, Hardwick, News

Iconic Swinging Bridge to be Replaced by Year-End

rendering by Engineering Ventures
A new pedestrian bridge will soon replace Hardwick’s locally famous swinging bridge, closed since August of 2020 due to deteriorating cables and their anchors.

Generations of Hardwick’s children have entertained and sometimes scared each other on Hardwick’s swinging bridge, where it spans the Lamoille River from Main Street to the Daniels Building.

Due to a problem with deteriorating support cables and their anchors, the town reported it temporarily closed in August 2020. That temporary closure eventually became permanent when the costs of replacing the bridge exceeded what seemed prudent to the town’s select board.

Recently, those using the Daniels Building parking lot and living in the neighborhood near it have gotten good news that will soon shorten their trip to Main Street.

The new bridge design has been finalized and Hardwick’s Development Review Board (DRB) approved a conditional use permit for it with several conditions, most importantly that construction must be completed within one construction season.

Both state and federal historic preservation approvals have been received by the town and  Town Manager David Upson has been working with the USDA on a bid package that he expects will go out any day now.

The new bridge will be solid and will not swing, but will offer the safety of a fixed bridge that many prefer.

Construction companies interested in taking on the project will have 30 days to respond, during which site visits will be conducted with potential bidders.

Work in the river, replacing retaining walls and building new abutments, must be completed between May and October 2024 because of conditions in the DRB approval. Some funding also requires that the work be completed this year.

The work has become more important because of damage to walls along the river on the Main Street side of the bridge that is at risk of undermining the town’s infrastructure. The project will rebuild those walls to protect against future flood events.

The Preservation Trust of Vermont web site indicates, “At town meeting in 1915, the Hardwick Village citizens instructed the Village Trustees to help fund a footbridge across the Lamoille River, from Main Street at ‘a point between the Gazette building and the flatiron building to a point on the Brush Street property recently purchased by Samuel Daniels.’

“The Villagers instructed the Trustees not to spend more than $350.00 on the footbridge.

The Trustees had the authority to supervise and direct the construction of the bridge, but ‘their cost should not exceed one half of the expense of building it.’

“The resulting bridge is approximately 102 feet long, the deck five feet wide, and its towers 18 feet high. The footbridge was used for over 100 years.

“The replacement bridge will serve as a critical connection and increase potential economic activity. A 2021 community survey found, based on 31 responses, average spending dropped to 35.6% of spending prior to the bridge’s closure and 88% of survey respondents . . . said that the closure of the pedestrian bridge impacted them.”

Funding is in place for the bridge construction and improvements to the park at the Main Street end of the new bridge. Future funding will be needed to complete the park on the Brush Street side of the bridge.

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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