The 150-year-old Sanborn covered bridge in Lyndon has seen better days.
"The cross beams that hold it up-- one of them is completely broken," said Jeanne Elliott, who owns the bridge.
Elliott and her husband acquired the Sanborn bridge for about $30,000 back in 1975 when they bought the motel next door. It was moved across town back in the 1960s and hasn't seen any real traffic ever since. But the bridge is showing its age and some local officials fear it may fall into the Passumpsic River any day and cause flooding.
"The object is to just do it as soon as possible, because if it ends up in the river, the only thing you're going to be able to do is cut it up to lift it out with a crane and at that point it's not much good for anything except scrap wood," Elliott said.
But with the potential price tag running upward of half a million dollars, the Elliott's say they cannot afford the repairs.
Vermont transportation officials say with no portion of the bridge in the public right of way, they have no intention of getting involved. But Republican State Sen. Joe Benning thinks the state does have a role here.
"This is one of the most important covered bridges in New England, if not North America, and the number of those bridges is rapidly dwindling. So, preserving this historic site, to me, is absolutely critical for the state of Vermont, as well as for the town of Lyndon," said Benning, R-Caledonia County.
The Sanborn is one of only a few privately owned covered bridges in the country. It was constructed by a well-known 19th century New Hampshire builder. A historic preservation group toured the bridge last weekend and is looking into ways to stabilize it.
Reporter Alexei Rubenstein: When you bought it did you ever think you would have to be making these kinds of decisions-- what to do with it or how to pay for it?
Jeanne Elliott: No, of course not. Back then it was romantic to own a covered bridge. Now, it's not so romantic.
In Lyndon, the so-called covered bridge capital of the Northeast Kingdom, a quandary over what to do with a covered bridge to nowhere.
Benning is looking into historic preservation funding within VTrans and other agencies to find a temporary fix for the bridge.
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