The Vermont Agency of Transportation is well under way rebuilding the arch bridge in Richmond, on US 2 just north of I-89. Their scheme is to split the bridge lengthwise, move half of it 10 feet out, and re-attach the two sides. Then motorists won't have to worry about being caught in a narrow bridge with a semi coming the other way. The bridge was built in 1929, two years after the '27 flood washed out a previous covered bridge at the site.

Vermont Transportation Structures Project Manager Carolyn Carlson started working on the Richmond bridge in 1989. It's taken 22 years to actually do something. You have to wonder what exactly was going on all those years.

You also have to wonder why this project is sucking $16 million out of the Transportation Fund, when a wide, handsome, easy to maintain concrete bridge could be put in place for less than half the $16 million price tag.

Here's the answer, from Scott Newman, the historic preservation officer for the Vermont Agency of Transportation: "When you are dealing with a historic resource, you don't look at it as extra money."

Mr. Newman may well believe that every old bridge is priceless and must be saved at whatever cost. But we don't. When we look at this heroically expensive project to rebuild an 83-year-old bridge of no special distinction, we think of all the repaving of deteriorating roadways that the extra $8 million could fix, and conclude that the department needs to abolish the position of historic preservation officer.

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