Life & Culture

Bridge to connect Montpelier-area trails installed over Winooski River

A new 200-foot trail bridge is held up by a crane and a barge before workers guide it into position on the south side of the Winooski River. Photo by Mike Dougherty/VTDigger

Installing a bridge over the Winooski River to connect a series of local trails has been a dream of Nona Estrin’s since the mid-1970s. 

“Now, here it is,” she said Friday. 

The founder of the East Montpelier Trails network watched through a pair of binoculars as a construction crew slid the 200-foot-long structure across the water and joined it with a concrete column on the other side, restoring a crossing lost decades ago when a railroad bridge in the same spot was removed.

The new bridge is a key step in a plan to link several trail systems, said Greg Western, executive director of the Cross Vermont Trail Association. The Montpelier Recreation Path and East Montpelier Trails will connect to the Cross Vermont Trail when the project is finished.

The Cross Vermont Trail, described on its website as “a patchwork quilt being stitched together from many local paths,” currently includes a busy corridor of Route 2. The trails connected by the new bridge will shift cyclists and pedestrians off the road and onto more miles of dedicated trails, said Michael Thomas, a founding member of the trail association, who watched the installation from the shoulder of the highway.

Planning for the bridge began in the early 1990s, Western said, but organizers quickly found that the process was more complicated than they expected. The site sits at the confluence of four towns, and none wanted to take on the job. 

When Western started working on the project in 2006, he thought it would take three years to complete. Fifteen years later, he watched as the bridge took its place.

“Just designing it, engineering it, getting it here — literally years of engineering and figuring things out,” he said.

The group plans to open the bridge to the public this fall, Western said, but the connecting trails will be built in stages. The next steps include a trail to connect the bridge to U-32 Middle and High School, a trailhead parking area and eventually a connection to nearby Route 14.

The bridge arrived in four parts, Western said, which crews bolted together into a single structure. As the installation began on Friday, a crane held the north end of the bridge while the south end floated on a barge in the river.

At around 2 p.m., two workers boarded the barge while the crane slowly slid the bridge across the river. The pair attached the bridge to a cradle hanging from a second crane on the south side of the river, which then hoisted the south end onto a concrete abutment.

When the bridge finally took its place, Estrin, watching from the south side, let out a cheer.

Correction: Nona Estrin's role at the East Montpelier Trails network has been corrected.

Mike Dougherty

About Mike

Mike Dougherty is a senior editor at VTDigger leading the politics team. He is a DC-area native and studied journalism and music at New York University. Prior to joining VTDigger, Michael spent two years as a program coordinator for the Vermont Humanities Council. Before moving to Vermont in 2015, he spent seven years managing recording operations for the oral history nonprofit StoryCorps, assisted Magnum photographer Susan Meiselas, and contributed to the Brooklyn-based alt-weekly L Magazine.


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