After 14 years off its abutments – and dedicated efforts by the Town of Ossipee – the Whittier Covered Bridge has been returned to its rightful place over the Bearcamp River.
Since its construction in 1870, the bridge has undergone three major rehabilitations. The first was in 1936 and completed by the New Hampshire Public Works and Highways Department to address flood damage to the bridge. The second rehabilitation was in 1983 and was led by famous bridge wright Milton Graton which served the bridge until additional deterioration led to its closure to vehicular traffic in 1989 and all traffic in 1995. Hoyle Tanner served as the Town’s Engineer for the most recent rehabilitation which was completed in three phases and was completed in November 2022.
A Phased Approach
Phase 1 of the rehabilitation began in 2007 with the relocation of the bridge off the abutments. Relocation was recommended by Hoyle Tanner after inspection of the bridge revealed the downstream truss lower chord was completely rotted and the bridge in danger of collapse. Stan Graton of 3G Construction led the relocation of the bridge which was accomplished by installing temporary shoring under and within the bridge so that it could be pulled back onto the approach roadway. The bridge was then supported on concrete blocks and temporary lateral bracing was installed within the bridge. The lateral bracing was previously used for our rehabilitation of the Haverhill-Bath Covered Bridge and purchased by the Town of Ossipee.
Phase 2 of the project included rehabilitating the bridge through a Design-Build contracting approach with Hoyle Tanner serving as the Town’s Engineer. The Design-Build team of 3G Construction/Dubois & King completed the rehabilitation in 2015.
Phase 3 included relocation of the bridge back to the abutments and stream work to address scour at one of the bridge abutments. Hoyle Tanner designed this phase with subconsultant Headwaters Consulting, LLC assisting with the design of scour repairs. CPM Constructors, Inc. was selected for the third phase in 2021, returning the bridge to the abutments and completing the project in November 2022, at which point the bridge was reopened to traffic. The Town of Ossipee provided funding for all three phases with substantial cost sharing through the New Hampshire Department of Transportation (NHDOT) Municipally-Managed State Bridge Aid Program, the New Hampshire Land and Community Heritage Investment Program (Phase 1), and the National Covered Bridge Preservation Program for Phases 2 and 3.
Why 14 Years
Besides questions as to how the bridge was moved, the most common question we are asked about this project is “What took so long?”; the answer to which is funding limitations.
The Town initially did not have sufficient funding to rehabilitate the bridge in-place and therefore elected to relocate the bridge to the approaches until sufficient funding could be obtained. Nancy Mayville and Mark Richardson of NHDOT were instrumental in securing the funding discussed above for the Town. Due to limitations in the amount that could be requested, the project was completed in phases, further slowing progress.
However, one thing never changed throughout our involvement in this historic bridge rehabilitation: the Townspeople, elected officials, NHDOT and Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) all worked tirelessly to make this project a reality. Through these efforts, the Whittier Covered Bridge has been preserved for future generations.