Charlemont, MA, July 12, 2009 - The Bissell a covered bridge opened to car traffic this spring after 14 years, the only covered bridge in Massachusetts that allows car traffic. A dedication celebration is in planning for this fall.
In 1992, town officials asked the state for a concrete and steel bridge. The plan was opposed by preservationists. Meanwhile, the community was served by a temporary one-way bridge.
In the meantime, they lived with a temporary bridge and inconvenient stop lights on both sides that prevented more than one car from passing at a time. The $3 million cost for the restoration - paid for with state and federal dollars - continues to raise questions when transportation funds are tight.
There was a lot of debate over the past twenty years over whether to replace the bridge with a modern concrete and steel structure, or to restore the landmark at a higher cost. The standoff was resolved in 2004 with a compromise design; with added supports and guardrails that are intended to keep the bridge safe without ruining the look.
The original 92-foot Bissell Bridge was built circa 1840 to cross Mill Brook in one span using a variation of the Long truss. The bridge was replaced with a replica in 1951.
[Our thanks to G. Robert Salvi for bringing this story to our attention - Ed.]