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Meem's Bottom Bridge damaged again, repairs underway

Nathan Jones and his daughter Natania, 10, of Richmond, walk outside the Meems Bottom Covered Bridge off Wissler Road west of Mount Jackson on Monday. The bridge was damaged by a truck Sunday night. Rich Cooley/Daily (Buy photo)

By Joe Beck

The Meem's Bottom Bridge has received its share of punishing blows during its long history, so it was no surprise to state road officials when it took another hit Sunday, this one from a tractor trailer that failed to squeeze in under the bridge roof.

Ken Slack, a spokesman for Virginia Department of Transportation, said agency workers spent Monday and Tuesday repairing an estimated $15,000 in damage. He said the repairs are expected to be completed by Friday morning. The bridge will be open evenings and overnight while work crews are not on site.

"There are some diagonal timbers that support the roof and whole series of them were struck, apparently by a tractor trailer," Slack said.

Slack said the covered bridge has been closed since someone discovered timbers lying around the bridge. Virginia State Police were called to the scene to investigate around 11:50 p.m. Sunday.

Slack said it appeared the unknown truck continued on after hitting the timbers.

"Unfortunately, it's relatively common for some part of the structure to be hit, and usually it's a pretty quick fix for us," Slack said.

Slack said height and weight restrictions for vehicles crossing the bridge are posted in several locations on both sides of the structure. The posted limits for vehicles are 10 feet, 6 inches in height, 13 feet, 7 inches in width and 13 tons of weight.

The 204-foot bridge, located about two miles south of Mount Jackson on Wissler Road, is one of five covered bridges in the state, according to VDOT's website. Meem's Bottom was built in 1894 after floods destroyed earlier bridges on the same spot in 1870 and 1877. The current bridge replaced another one built in 1878 after the floods.

A Halloween fire attributed to vandals burned most of the bridge in 1976. The General Assembly and VDOT officials decided the rebuilt bridge should keep its historic appearance and completed the renovation in 1979.

Meem's Bottom remains the longest timber-covered bridge in Virginia, and the only one of its kind in the state road system that is still open to vehicular traffic.

The bridge was added to the National Register of Historic Places and the Virginia Landmarks Register in 1975.

Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or jbeck@nvdaily.com

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