While Pennsylvania has more covered bridges than any state in the country, New England is also well-known for its density of quaint transportation structures. The historic spans dot the region and are an iconic aspect of the area’s architecture, especially in rural areas. The town of Lancaster in northern New Hampshire has a population of just over 3,200 people and one 160-year covered bridge. So far this summer, drivers have struck the bridge twice.
The Mechanic Street Bridge was built in 1862 to span the Israel River in Lancaster. According to WFXT in Boston, an oversized truck hit the entryways and several overhead beams on the historical bridge. It wasn’t specified precisely what kind of truck recklessly crossed.
More interesting is that there are signs at either end clearly stating the structure’s limitations. The bridge has a maximum clearance of eight feet and a maximum weight limit of three tons. Also, only passenger cars are legally allowed to use the bridge. There is a much more modern crossing over the Israel River on Main Street only a quarter of a mile away.
Lancaster selectman (town councilor) Leon H. Rideout made a statement on his Facebook page about the incident:
“I have to say this afternoon was quite distressing when for the second time this summer a driver thought they could drive a truck that was larger than the size the signs said would fit through our iconic Mechanic Street bridge. More dismaying is the driver saying that they didn’t realize they hit the bridge. I am sorry but if you didn’t realize you hit the bridge you should not have any drivers license period. (I will be polite) We will have the bridge assessed for safety and make repairs as soon as possible.”
The initial 1862 construction of Mechanic Street Bridge was estimated to cost $18,000, or $520,000 in today’s dollars when adjusted for inflation. The repair probably won’t be nearly as costly.
This bridge or others like it aren’t covered for aesthetic reasons. They were built to last with the covers intended to protect the bridge’s wooden support structure from the elements. However, vehicular damage is becoming more common. In June, a bridge in Jackson, New Hampshire was also struck twice. The second incident involved a tractor-trailer driving into the bridge.