Our beloved and highly regarded "Vermont Life Magazine" in its Winter 2001 issue reported the completion of the "twin" covered bridge over the Ottauquechee River dam causeway in North Hartland. In an otherwise fine short article, the cost of the wooden span was not correctly cited. The goof would not have been mentioned here except that it offers a serious misconception on the true cost of a covered bridge to the tax-paying public. Bridgers should be aware of the article and be prepared to refute the statement of cost contained therein.
Jan Lewandoski, builder of the covered bridge wrote the following letter to the editor of "Vermont Life Magazine," and shared it with us:
"While I appreciate the mention of the new covered bridge my crew and I constructed in North Hartland this past summer (Vermont Life, Winter 2001, "Hartland Has Its Double Covered Bridges Again"), the cost figures mentioned were extremely erroneous and will give readers the wrong idea about the economic rationality of wooden bridges.
Your writer stated that the new wooden bridge cost $874,000 as compared with $101,000 for a modern steel and concrete structure. In reality, I built and installed the new covered bridge at North Hartland for $175,900. $101,000 is an estimate, near but probably somewhat below, the cost of a concrete and steel superstructure (the roadway and the steel beams supporting it) across that same span. These are the two figures to be compared. Since concrete bridges have a hard time surviving more than 50 years, while the average age of covered wooden bridges in Vermont is 140 years, they are arguably a good buy.
The Town of Hartland may have spent $847,000 on the project, but most of that money was for coffer dams, new abutments, a temporary bridge, wing walls, roadway approaches, and landscaping by contractors other than myself. These additional costs would be the same for any sort of bridge being installed: concrete, steel or wood.