Vilas Bridge

View of the Vilas Bridge from Bellows Falls, VT.

The Vilas Bridge connects Bellows Falls, VT to Walpole, NH. It is an open spandrel concrete arch bridge constructed in 1930. The Vilas Bridge has been closed since 2009 due to deterioration of the reinforced concrete deck. The bridge is jointly owned by the New Hampshire Department of Transporation and the Vermont Agency of Transportation, however, NHDOT owns 93% of the bridge and VTrans owns only 7%, making NHDOT the lead agency. The Vilas Bridge is not scheduled for rehabilitation until 2015.

Looking to Walpole, NH.

View to the center of the bridge.

Closer view of the open spandrel arch.

So intimidating.

My love for concrete bridges is well documented, but I had never seen the Vilas Bridge before. How sad to only visit it when it’s long closed and deteriorating. Check out the features of this bridge:

The curved concrete rail.

Bridge plaques, probably with the date, have since been removed.

Cast urn balustrade.

The Vilas Bridge and the adjacent stone arch railroad bridge appear to meet each other in New Hampshire.

I cannot find much written about the Vilas Bridge, but it is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. News articles here and there question the timeline for rehabilitation and wonder about the fate of the bridge. Hopefully it will be rehabilitated before the deterioration becomes so great that the cost of rehabilitation is not feasible and prudent. Do you live in New Hampshire? Contact your NHDOT to ask questions about the bridge and urge the rehabilitation.

Vilas Bridge under construction. Image courtesy of UVM Landscape Change. Click for source and details.

Losing another spectacular bridge in Bellows Falls and Walpole would be a crying shame. The first bridge lost was a three-pinned steel through arch. It was closed in 1971 and dismantled in 1982. Now in its place sits a 4 span steel girder (i.e. boring highway bridge) in its place. The HAER documentation states that its significance was:

When built, the bridge was the longest single span highway bridge in the U.S. and is was among the largest three-hinged arch bridges in the world. The structure has also played an important role in socio-economic development of the Bellows Falls and North Walpole.

Bellows Falls Arch Bridge. Image credit: HAER. Click for source.

Moral of the story? Love your bridges. Save your bridges.