The Empire State Building took 410 days to complete. The Golden Gate Bridge a little under four years. The pre-fabricated bridge to cross a pair of old train trestle abutments in Andover?
A decade, and counting.
Since the planning for the covered bridge started in 2001, the project has been held up by numerous design changes, hearings, meetings, manufacturer concessions and excuses by Echo Bridge Inc. of Elmira, N.Y. More than $418,000 in state and federal funding has been pumped into this little bridge, which still sits, unfinished, at the manufacturer.
The latest holdup? A lawsuit between Andover and Echo Bridge Inc. of Elmira, N.Y., over who should pay for state-mandated improvements to the structure is heading before a judge in the spring.
State Rep. Pamela Z. Sawyer and I, as well as hundreds of other trail enthusiasts, have been waiting since I first wrote it was coming in 2002 and then in 2003, 2005, 2006 (when I swore I would never write about it again) and once more in 2009.
"I'm feeling old," said Sawyer, who pointed out that she was a busy mother back then and is now an equally busy grandmother. "I'm counting on a few leprechauns to make an appearance. Nothing else has worked. You know how frustrated I am, but I have no control or power in this."
"Frustrating" is the right word for it, as the lack of a bridge has created a glaring — and dangerous — gap in the 20-mile trail. Hikers have had to travel down a high embankment along a rocky side trail, climb over a pair of guardrails, cross Route 316 near Route 6 — both busy, hazardous roads — and then clamber up the other side to return to the trail. It has become one of the more embarrassing gaps in the 3,000-mile East Coast Greenway work-in-progress that runs from the Florida Keys to Canada.
The stalled-bridge saga is especially frustrating when you see Manchester bridging its gaps in the Charter Oak Trail out to Bolton and the Hop River Trail. It's frustrating when you remember watching U.S. Coast Guard Academy cadets in 2001 building a huge wooden bridge across an old railroad trestle three times as long as the Andover span in a matter of days.
"It has become a test of will and checkbooks," Sawyer said of the Andover project. "It's a tale of woe. I don't want it to be known as the Sawyer Memorial Bridge. I want to be here and see it finished. It made a whole lot of sense when we proposed it back then, and it still does. But it's 10 years later. I can't believe it."
Sawyer has promised to dance across the bridge when it is finally set in place. I have promised to join her. I just hope we both aren't using canes and walkers when we do our dance.
Peter Marteka can be reached at 860-647-5365 or email@example.com or at The Courant, 200 Adams St., Manchester, CT 06040. Visit courant.com/cthiking for more adventures in the state's natural world.