Ribbon Cutting Ceremony Marks Reopening of Mitchell River Bridge

Mitchell River Bridge Chatham

CCB MEDIA PHOTO: The reconstructed Mitchell River Bridge in Chatham

CHATHAM – The Mitchell River drawbridge reopened to pedestrians, and soon cars, Monday after two years of reconstruction.

Widely regarded as the oldest wooden drawbridge in the nation, the former structure was replaced with a new bridge which still retains a wooden exterior.

The structural integrity is improved, however, with the addition of steel pilings and newer drawbridge technology underneath, according to Chatham Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson.

“It’s much more environmentally friendly, it will last for years and years, and won’t need a lot of upkeep and maintenance,” he said.

The old structure was one of many wooden drawbridges spanning the river over 150 years.

According to Harbormaster Stuart Smith, it often didn’t work properly; requiring a crane to lift the central barrier and trucks on either end.

A design process spanning years ensured the final model would be sensitive to the historical site, allowing for the character of a wooden bridge to remain yet provide enough structural integrity to last longer than an all-wood structure would.

Multiple historic committees had a hand in the design, including the Friends of the Mitchell River Wooden Drawbridge and a state historic preservation officer.

The $14 million project was paid for by Mass Department of Transportation and the Federal Accelerated Bridge Program.

Vehicles were not permitted to cross Monday, but that restriction was lifted the following day.

There are a few elements of the bridge which will not be completed until early fall, but it will remain open to the public throughout the summer.

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