CAMPTON — After a year of work, the overhaul of the Blair covered bridge is complete and traffic is once again flowing on the single-lane, east-west span over the Pemigewasset River.
The bridge, originally built in 1829, is 292 feet and 10 inches long; 20 feet, two inches wide; has a maximum vertical clearance of 13 feet, three inches and can support vehicles of up to three tons in weight, according to the state Department of Resources and Economic Development.
The department said the town-owned bridge was initially erected at a cost of $1,000 but years later it was burned down by an arsonist. Rebuilt in 1870, it was rebuilt again in 1977, at a cost of $59,379.
In August 2011, floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene carried a large pine tree into the bridge, causing extensive damage. That incident prompted town leaders to look toward long-term improvements and they began working with N.H. Department of Transportation.
DOT recommended replacing Blair Bridge with a modern one made of concrete and steel but the idea was rejected because of the strong feelings the span engenders in town.
The DOT did, however, help Campton get the bridge onto the National Register of Historic Places, which then allowed the town to leverage funding opportunities. As a result, Campton taxpayers will pick up about $200,000 of the $2.5 million total project cost while the rest will be paid by the federal and state governments.
The reopening of the Blair Bridge preceded the reopening of another historic span — the Bath Covered Bridge over the Ammonoosuc River, which on Aug. 14 was celebrated with a ceremony in Bath Village.
At some 400-feet long, the Bath Covered Bridge is the longest covered bridge located entirely in New Hampshire. It took two years and $3 million to renovate the bridge, which at one point had been on the NHDOT’s “Red List” of bridges in need of immediate repair.