Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

August 25, 2013

W. Mich. covered bridge reopens after truck damage

VERGENNES TOWNSHIP (AP) — West Michigan’s last remaining original construction covered bridge has reopened after a truck that weighed more than 10 times its load capacity damaged the span.

The 31-ton cement truck damaged the interior cross-bracing of the 142-year-old Fallasburg Covered Bridge on Wednesday, according to The Grand Rapids Press. It reopened a day later after Kent County Road Commission engineers inspected it.

“It did not compromise the structural integrity of the bridge,” Steve Warren, road commission director, told the newspaper. “We felt confident in reopening the bridge to vehicular traffic.”

He said he did not know why the 37-year-old driver crossed the bridge, which is marked with 3-ton limit signs.

Steel rods placed on the bridge in the 1930s and replaced in 1994 likely saved the bridge, said bridge inspector Tom Byle.

“If those tension rods hadn’t been added, it would have been in the river,” he said.

The incident comes just weeks after an arson fire destroyed the Whites Covered Bridge, which is just a few miles up the Flat River from Fallasburg.

“This could have been a catastrophe,” said Alan Rumbaugh, Fallasburg Historical Society treasurer.

The Vergennes Township board recently initiated measures to protect the Fallasburg bridge.

The bridge will be sprayed with a fire retardant, said Township Supervisor Tim Wittenbach. The board also is looking at adding lighting and a surveillance camera.

No damage estimate was available, Warren said, but the driver was cited.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press, http://www.mlive.com/grand-rapids

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