Blair Bridge damage assessed, charges are pending
Campton — The historic Blair Bridge has sustained damage to 28 knee braces, with eight of them seriously damage, after a Rochester man drove his box truck through the bridge last week. Campton Police Chief Christopher Warn said that charges are pending.
At about 12:40 p.m. on Aug. 28, Wayne Rix, 65 of Rochester, drove a 1995 International 4700 single-axel box truck onto the newly renovated and repaired bridge located on Blair Road. Warn said that a summons is in process, and while it is not a criminal case, it will be a violation for driving his vehicle on the bridge over the posted amount. Warn said that Rix’s truck has been weighed, and it was over the posted amount of six tons.
Officials surveyed the damage on Wednesday afternoon and said that it was clear that the truck was too high for the entrance. It is marked with an eight foot height limit.
The Town of Campton owns the bridge, and it is insured under Primex. Senior Adjuster James Mason of NCA Group was at the scene evaluating the damage. He said that it was unclear what the dollar amount would be for damage, and that it could take several weeks to know for sure. However, he said that it was certain that there was no damage to the structural integrity to the bridge.
“The bridge is safe,” said Mason.
Along with Mason at the bridge on Wednesday was Road Agent Butch Bain, Craig Keeney and Kelly Bolger. Bolger and Keeney were representatives of the town of Campton on the $2.4 million rehabilitation project following damage during Tropical Storm Irene.
Keeney explained that Rix traveled through the bridge going east to west, and hit every knee brace on the bridge’s roof. When examining the roof it is clear where pieces are broken, and Bain spray painted the pieces in need of replacement.
Warn and other town officials at the scene would not specify how it was found that Rix hit the knee braces, with Warn saying that additional information may compromise the investigation. He expects to be able to reveal further details by the end of the week.
The bridge is located east of Route 3, two miles north of Livermore Falls spanning over the Pemigewasset River. The wooden bridge has a long truss with arches design, and has a commemorative plaque at the entrance. The first bridge at the location was built in 1829, but burned down by a man who claimed God told him to do it. The current bridge is about 292 feet, 10 inches, and was created after a doctor tried to ford the river on horseback, and due to the quick current, the horse drowned.
The bridge was rebuilt in 1977 by Milton Graton and his son Arnold for $5,379 and the town of Campton and the state shared the cost of repairs.
On Aug. 28, 2011, ironically exactly three years prior to last week’s incident, the bridge was badly damaged during Tropical Storm Irene, when the river rose significantly and a floating tree impaled the center of the bridge. It was repaired and then renovated, and was reopened last year.
The bridge remains open to travel, but it was noted by Mason that when repairs are made, it will need to be closed for several days.