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GPS technology poses a threat to America’s historic bridges

GPS technology poses a threat to America’s historic bridges

One of Vermont’s cherished historic covered bridges faces an ongoing threat from modern technology.

Despite warning signs, including a flashing one, box truck drivers relying on GPS continue to collide with Lyndon’s 140-year-old Miller’s Run bridge. Violators can face hefty fines from the town, along with state penalties. However, the incidents persist.

Justin Smith, Lyndon’s municipal administrator, attributes the problem to a lack of common sense among drivers. The bridge, dating back to 1878 and refurbished in 1995, serves as a shortcut for motorists avoiding downtown Lyndonville. The community, proud of its five historic covered bridges, dubs itself the “Covered Bridge Capital of the NEK” (Northeast Kingdom).

Police chief Jack Harris estimates that the Miller’s Run bridge has been struck around two dozen times, sometimes twice in a single day. The majority of drivers are using GPS programs designed for cars rather than commercial vehicles. While the damage is often cosmetic, repair costs can be substantial.

In one instance in 2019, a delivery truck damaged the supports, resulting in engineering and repair expenses nearing $100,000. The town only recovers insurance money from drivers about half the time, with many fleeing the scene.

Inexperienced drivers, including those renting box trucks for moving purposes, often cause accidents. Additionally, large campers frequently sustain damage, such as losing air conditioning units, when passing through.

Surveillance cameras installed by a neighbor have helped identify some offending drivers. However, Lyndon is not alone in facing such challenges. Bill Caswell, president of the National Society for the Preservation of Covered Bridges, notes similar incidents in various states, emphasizing the need for protective measures.

In response to the ongoing issue, a box truck rental company in Lyndonville now educates drivers about the area’s covered bridges. The town is considering installing a steel beam to halt tall trucks before they reach the bridge.

Google advises drivers of standard-sized vehicles to use navigation tools designed for larger vehicles. Apple did not respond to inquiries about the matter.

Opinions in the town are divided on the best course of action. While some advocate for protecting the bridge to maintain its historical significance, others suggest replacing it with a more conventional structure. Despite differing viewpoints, the community remains frustrated by the continued disregard for warning signs and the preservation of its cherished landmark.