Bridge of Two Towns Gets a Marble Makeover in VT

Thu November 14, 2002 - Northeast Edition
Kip Fry



Proctor, VT, has long been known as one of the centers of the marble industry in the Northeast. It was only fitting then that the bridge connecting the two sides of the village would be made partially of marble.

But 88 years after it was first built and more than 60 years since its last substantial rehabilitation, it is in need of a major overhaul.

The bridge spans Otter Creek, which splits the village nearly in half, so it is a crucial part of Proctor’s road system.

The first part of the job is to replace the marble railings, as well as new aluminum approach railings, according to Carolyn Meunier, project engineer for the structure section of the Vermont Agency of Transportation (VTrans).

The bridge also will get a new concrete slab and all the fill, aggregate and damaged concrete beneath its arches will be removed and replaced. A new storm drain also will be added.

Over the years, the concrete has spalled, causing leaking beneath the arches. Approximately 1,300 cu. yds. (1,000 cu m) of special aggregate will be used. New sidewalks and light poles, designed to reflect the era in which the bridge was originally built, also will be added.

“It is basically a patch job We want to make it as dry as we possibly can,” Meunier explained. “It is a historic structure, so we want to make sure that people can enjoy it.”

The work on the 164-ft. (49.7 m) bridge bears a price tag of $1.4 million, not including the construction on the marble railing, which is on a separate contract.

“There is a lot of general maintenance that hasn’t been addressed in a while,” said Ken Lougee, project manager of The Belden Company of nearby Rutland, the primary contractor for the job. To complete the work, the company is using machinery, such as a Volvo 190 excavator and Mack tandem dump trucks. Fork lifts also will be brought in to move the pieces of marble.

“We have to dig down from the sill down to the concrete edges and repair the concrete and add lightweight three-fourth-in. aggregate to reduce the weight,” Lougee explained. To allow workers to work underneath the bridge, temporary floats have been built on top of the water. Without them, work from down below would be much more difficult.

The history of the bridge can be seen just by looking at it. Signs of work from the 1936 widening project can be seen where the two different kinds of concrete are visible butting against each other on its substructure.

“It’s interesting to see what it’s like underneath,” said Meunier.

Aside from its marble, Proctor also is known as the home of Redfield Proctor, once the governor of Vermont in the 19th century, as well as secretary of war in the Benjamin Harrison administration and United States senator until his death in 1908. The marble bridge was a gift to the town by Proctor’s wife, Emily, in memory of their son Fletcher. It was designed by New York Architect Harry L. Walker in the neoclassical revival style and was constructed of reinforced concrete and marble facing.

Meunier explained that it has never been an extremely watertight structure because, over the years, salt has trickled down to the arches and caused a great deal of damage. When a sewer line was placed underneath the sidewalk many years ago, the concrete had to be opened. The situation was exacerbated when the sewer line was repaired several years ago. The remaining cracks created an ideal location for salt to enter the bridge, which is exactly what happened.

Ironically, the new marble that is being brought in to make the repairs will not come from Proctor. Rather, it was ordered from Granite Importers of Barre, VT, about a 71-mi. drive from the bridge. It will come in a variety of sizes and shapes, mostly between 5 and 6 ft. long (1.5 and 1.82 m) and 8.5 ft. deep (2.58 m) . The pieces dedicated for the facing of the guide walk posts are 5 ft. long (1.5 m), although they will be a little bit longer — about 6 ft. long (1.82 m) —at the end of the bridge. The entire process of piecing the facing together will be much like putting a puzzle together, Meunier said, as is often the case when working with stone.

Before any work could be started on the actual bridge, a temporary foot bridge had to be installed just a couple feet from the actual bridge to handle all the pedestrian traffic from one side of town to the other. This is especially important with the high school on one side of Otter Creek and the elementary school on the other. Excel Bridge Corporation of Santa Fe Springs, CA, provided the 180-ft. (54.6 m) span, which will see a lot of use in the coming months.

A variety of contractors will work on the bridge throughout the summer. Although The Belden Company is the primary contractor, subcontractors include: Wilk Paving, Rutland, paving; A. Tedesco Masonry, Rutland, resettled marble; A.D. Rossi, St Johnsbury, VT, membrane; and F. R. Lafayette, Essex Junction, VT, guardrails; along with Palletti Stone, cold planing; and S.E Benson Electrical, electrical work.

The road crossing the bridge was closed on May 21 and Lougee said he anticipates a November completion. Although pedestrian traffic will not be altered by the construction, vehicles will be restricted to detours along West Proctor Road and Gorham Bridge Road.