Vermont town triples fines for striking covered bridges

January 6, 2022

Tyson Fisher

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Already an expensive mistake, fines for striking a covered bridge in Lyndon, Vt., are now up as much as threefold.

During a recent Lyndon Selectboard meeting, town officials agreed to increase fines for oversize/overweight vehicles striking either of the town’s two covered bridges: Millers’ Run and Chamberlain Mill bridges. Fines are now $5,000 for first offense, $10,000 for second offense and $15,000 for third and subsequent offenses. Previously, fines were $2,000 (first offense), $3,500 (second offense), and $5,000 (third and subsequent offenses).

Lyndon town ordinance prohibits vehicles or trailers with a height equal to or greater than 11 feet 9 inches from crossing Millers’ Run covered bridge. The ordinance also restricts vehicles weighing 16,000 pounds or more from crossing the bridge.

A similar ordinance applies to the Chamberlin Mill covered bridge. According to Lyndon ordinances, no vehicle higher than 10 feet or weighing more than 10,000 pounds can cross the bridge. The fine structure is the same for both covered bridges.

According to city documents, town officials are experiencing “frustration with the Miller’s Run covered bridge getting hit on a regular basis.” During a Dec. 20 meeting, Selectboard Member Nancy Blankenship proposed the increased fine structure, which was approved with a 3-0 vote.

Lyndonville Police Chief Jack Harris told Land Line that there have been 11 cases of truckers ignoring height signs since last January. The latest bridge strike occurred on Monday, Jan. 3. Of those 11 cases, one truck had to back up more than half a mile to turn around. Another trucker had to completely remove a tire when backing up. For the nine remaining cases, truckers drove over the bridge, causing damage.

Signage is not the issue. The town’s height limit signs are equipped with lights that flash 24 hours a day. As is often the case in similar situations, nonlocals using GPS navigation apps are typically the ones striking the bridge.

“It is my understanding that there is a commercial vehicle version of the mapping apps, yet that comes with a cost. Instead, they choose to use the passenger car version of the mapping directions which leads them over the bridge,” Chief Harris told Land Line. “In each instance that I have investigated the operators have said they were following the directions from their mapping app. I am unaware of why these licensed commercial drivers are no longer paying attention to signs, yet as you can see, with 11 commercial vehicles completely disregarding the signs it is an issue.”

Vermont is no stranger to truckers getting stuck because of navigation apps taking them somewhere they do not belong. The infamous Smugglers’ Notch is located off of Vermont Route 108.

Smugglers’ Notch is a mountain pass in Lamoille County, Vt., with some sharp twists and turns. It is because of this snakelike feature that trucks are not allowed on the road. One section is particularly difficult to navigate, even for passenger vehicles.

Numerous trucks get stuck there each year, despite plenty of signs warning truckers to stay off the road. According to Flynn, nearly 100 trucks have gotten stuck at Smugglers’ Notch since 2009. In the past decade, an average of 8.4 trucks get stuck each year. LL

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Tyson Fisher joined Land Line Magazine in March 2014. An award-winning journalist and tireless researcher, his news reports, features and blogs bring depth to our editorial content, backed with solid detail. Tyson is a lifelong Kansas Citian.