The West Dummerston Covered Bridge was damaged in a hit-and-run Sunday by an oversized box truck, according to police.
WEST DUMMERSTON — The 280-foot long West Dummerston Covered Bridge has survived floods, vandals and creeping age. Now add to the list a too-tall Budget Rental truck.
The 1872 bridge, which is the longest covered bridge currently in use in the state of Vermont, was damaged Sunday afternoon by an oversized box truck.
According to an eyewitness account given to the Vermont State Police, the driver of the Budget Rental truck got out, saw the damage, and drove away without reporting it. The incident happened at about 5:15 p.m., on the Camp Arden Road side of the bridge.
Zeke Goodband, chairman of the Dummerston Select Board, said Monday the damage appeared relatively light and the bridge was safe to use.
Trim boards on the east entrance were damaged, as well as a crossbeam, according to a press release from the Vermont State Police. Right above the damaged trim board is a sign warning the interior of the bridge is only 11 feet tall.
Goodband said that Mike Renaud of Vernon, a local covered bridge restoration expert, would be at the bridge first thing this morning to assess the damage.
“He’s done a lot of work on the bridge, and to tell you the truth it doesn’t look too bad,” said Goodband, on a cellphone call from the bridge. “I don’t think the repairs will take much time.”
Trooper Travis Valcourt said that two people who saw the crash came forward. He said the witnesses were unable to get cell service near the bridge, and called police 30 minutes later when they got home.
He said he believed it was a 16-foot tall truck. He said state police were in contact with Budget Rental in an effort to locate the truck, which was damaged in the crash.
But he said Budget Rental did not have a national database on rented trucks since all the rental agencies are owned independently.
“They don’t have a national database,” Valcourt said. But he said that the police had some possible leads in the case, and he said the investigation was ongoing.
Goodband said the bridge had about $300,000 worth of work done in 2012 on the “wing walls,” or entrances to the bridge, which carries the East-West Road over the West River.
Goodband said the town did have insurance on the covered bridge, and he said any damage would be covered.
Sylvio Forrett, a longtime Dummerston Select Board member, said the current bridge replaced a similar bridge that was swept away in floods in 1869, and cost $7,777 to build.
Forrett said he has collected a lot of history on the West Dummerston Covered Bridge, which is the only surviving covered bridge in the town. He said at one time there was another bridge over Stickney Brook “right on Route 30.”
He said the West Dummerston bridge was originally two lanes, but had been cut to one lane out of weight concerns and overloading on the bridge.
Forrett said that box trucks had damaged the covered bridge before. “I’ve seen them there before,” said Forrett, who served on the Dummerston board for 29 years.
Forrett said he recalled the time a truck that was too tall for the bridge had to deflate all its tires so it could get out of the bridge.
He said one possibility is that the truck passed through the bridge loaded, and was lower on its springs, and once unloaded — and higher — came back across the bridge, causing the damage.
Forrett said the bridge was completely rebuilt in the mid 1990s, and that the town’s Iron Bridge, which also crosses the West River, was closed, causing a lengthy detour via Brattleboro for many people in town.
“I remember having to drive to Brattleboro to go to a Select Board meeting,” said Forrett, who said that a temporary bridge was installed downstream from the covered bridge in the interim.
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