But, Who Will Build the Bridges?

By S.D. Plissken | February 3, 2020

Everyone is frustrated by the abject failure of government to replace the bridge between Milton and Lebanon, ME. The four layers of government participating in this are the NH State government, the Milton Town government, the Maine State government, and the Lebanon Town government.

Milton Town officials this year were deluded enough to suggest adding a fifth governmental entity to the mix: a County planning board or commission. The reasoning was a bit unclear, but seemed to suggest that we needed to participate in this fifth governmental entity in order to get it to lobby for “our” government with “our” other government.

We hear today from the Milton Community News (and Lebanon Truth Seekers) that Lebanon, ME, is considering just getting out of this mess entirely (www.facebook.com/ourmiltonnews). Can you blame them?

In doing some research work for Ms. Bristol, I came across the following regarding the eighteenth-century bridge between Newcastle, NH, and Rye, NH, which was a much wider span, and one that passed over some serious tidal currents.

The Proprietors of Newcastle Bridge are reminded that the annual meeting of said Proprietary is to be on the first Monday in June next, on which day, they are hereby notified to meet at the house of Mrs. Elizabeth Trefethen, near said Bridge, at two o’clock in the afternoon – To choose officers for the year ensuing, and to transact what other business may be judged necessary.  HENRY PRESCOTT, Prop’r’s Clerk.  Newcastle, May 11, 1801 (Republican Ledger (Portsmouth, NH), 12 May 1801).

The Newcastle Bridge was a private toll bridge, erected by its corporate Proprietary, i.e., its investors, and maintained by tolls. That is to say, only those wanting to cross the bridge, and willing to pay its toll, paid anything for it at all. There was no taxpayer involvement whatsoever.

The Widow Trefethen kept a tavern on the Newcastle side of the bridge. That is to say, the Newcastle Bridge Propriety did not even incur any additional costs of maintaining or renting its own hall or office building. They met annually, and at any other necessary times, in the local “pub.”

New Hampshire’s first two turnpikes were built privately as toll roads, as well as other New Hampshire bridges, often along those same turnpikes. The Cornish-Windsor Bridge – a 460-foot span between Cornish, NH, and Windsor, VT – comes to mind. Its NH State historic marker reads:

CORNISH-WINDSOR BRIDGE. Built in 1866 at a cost of $9,000, this is the longest wooden bridge in the United States and the longest two-span covered bridge in the world. The fourth bridge at this site, the 460-foot structure was built by Bela J. Fletcher (1811-1877) of Claremont and James F. Tasker of (1826-1903) of Cornish, using a lattice truss patented by Ithiel Town in 1820 and 1835. Built as a toll bridge by a private corporation, the span was purchased by the state of New Hampshire in 1936 and made toll-free in 1943.

Seventy years as a private bridge corporation, including probably forty years with automobiles.

If you have had enough of “our” governments’ multi-year inability to replace this simple bridge over this short span, there are other options. I’d be willing to invest in a private toll-bridge proprietary. How about you?

References:

Wikipedia. (2019, September 2). Cornish-Windsor Covered Bridge. Retrieved from en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornish–Windsor_Covered_Bridge

Author: S.D. Plissken

I thought he'd be taller.

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