EAST RICHFORD – Scissors were snapped from both sides of the U.S. – Canada border Monday morning as officials from both Vermont and Quebec heralded the reopening of a historic truss bridge that, for almost a century, connected the communities of East Richford and Sutton, Quebec.
State and local officials, including Gov. Phil Scott, celebrated what they saw as a literal representation of Vermont’s and Quebec’s relationship with the restoration of the bridge, a historic truss bridge built in 1929 that spans the Missisquoi River where another bridge built in 1918 once did.
Officials championed the bridge as an extension of a wider relationship between Quebec and Vermont, something Scott and members of his cabinet praised as an economic relationship worth more than $2 billion and a deeper, personal relationship between communities on either side of the border.
“These communities had been connected by a bridge since 1918,” Scott said. “Back then… there was local people and governments who saw value and mutual benefit in connecting the rural communities of Canada and Vermont, and these simple facts remain true today.
“The mutual benefit to these small border town economies, which rely on local connection for commerce, services and recreational opportunities, is more important than ever.”
Marie-Claude Francouer, Quebec’s delegate to New England, joined Scott on the U.S. side of the border Monday to celebrate the commemoration of the bridge, echoing sentiments shared by Scott and members of Scott’s administration.
“This relationship is an economic one — $2.2 billion worth of goods are traded between Quebec and Vermont each year,” Francouer said. “We also know this relationship is a personal one, in this part of the world where we’re not only friends, but family. Just ask any one of the hundreds of people who use this bridge and cross this border every day.”
Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places as the Missisquoi River Bridge, the structure officials dubbed the East Richford – Sutton International Bridge Monday dates back to 1929, when the historic truss bridge was installed to replace another washed away in the Great Vermont Flood of 1927.
At the time of its replacement, federal emergency funding for the bridge was approved by President Calvin Coolidge, one of two native Vermonters to serve in the White House.
The bridge spans the Missisquoi River as the river winds from Canada into Vermont, carrying Route 105-A past an equally historic border checkpoint and into Glen Sutton in Quebec’s south.
According to the vice chair of Richford’s selectboard, Linda Collins, the reopening of the bridge was not only a symbol of Richford’s historic relationship with the communities to its north, but also important for the safety of residents in East Richford, where mutual aid agreements with Sutton’s fire department help bolster emergency services.
“If they could not get here through this bridge, they would have to go up through Sutton, over the mountains and through the woods to get to these houses, so it’s very important for us to have this,” Collins said. “The maintenance of this bridge is critical to the safety of our residents, and I think a symbol of the friendship and collaboration between us and Canada.”
The crossing in question had been closed since early 2018, when the physical restoration began on the steel truss bridge. At the time, restoration costs were projected at $3.7 million, according to the Vermont Agency of Transportation’s factsheet on the bridge restoration.
According to Cory Burrall, Vtrans’s lead designer on the bridge’s restoration, the restoration amounted to replacing the existing bridge deck and replacement of the bridge’s U.S. abutment and approach. The surviving steelwork on the bridge was sandblasted and repainted.
The restoration remained within the footprint of the original bridge, and restoration work finished earlier this summer.
According to Secretary of Transportation Joe Flynn, the recent restoration work undertaken by Vermont and Quebec was the second such project, with earlier restoration work taking place in 1979. “We’re here today at the next generation, which we expect to serve travelers between Vermont and Quebec for another 40 years,” Flynn said.
Quebec and Vermont share ownership and maintenance duties of the bridge, with approximately 80 percent of the bridge maintained by Vermont and another 20 percent maintained by Quebec.
Following remarks from state and provincial officials, a ribbon was formally cut at approximately where the bridge transitions from U.S. to Canadian territory. When cutting the ribbon, Scott and Francouer were joined by members of both U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and their Canadian counterparts, the Canada Border Services Agency, as well as the design team who steered the bridge’s restoration.