State Highway to visit Burkeville Covered Bridge to review closure
A granite grindstone replica sits at the entrance to the rebuilt covered bridge in the Burkeville section of Conway over the South river 06/9/25 MacDonald
CONWAY — A bridge engineer from the state Department of Transportation will visit the Burkeville Covered Bridge on Thursday morning to see what can be done to open the historic bridge to vehicular traffic.
State Rep. Stephen Kulik’s office organized the meeting at the request of Town Administrator Ed MacDonald.
“It’s to learn what Mass. DOT would require in terms of modifications for the bridge to open for one-way traffic,” said Paul Dunphy at Kulik’s South Deerfield office. “We reached out to the state agency and notified the town administrator.”
The historic bridge connects Route 116 to Orchard Street and Main Poland Road across the South River. It is only one of three original covered bridges remaining in Massachusetts and one of 10 similar bridges remaining in the United States.
The re-opening of the 1871 bridge has been the initiative of the Conway Historical Commission for several years.
In 1985 the bridge was closed due to structural deficiencies. For the following 20 years, the town lobbied to repair and re-open the bridge.
In the fall of 2003, the $1 million repair job — funded through state and federal dollars — began. Three years later the bridge re-opened. But to the dismay of the Historical Commission, the state kept the bridge closed to vehicular traffic despite renovations. The then-state highway commissioner, Luisa Paiwonski, cited the bridge’s lack of steel, crash-tested guardrails.
Another concern of the state’s was that vehicles would bring salt onto the wood structure during winter, causing decay.
At the April 2006 town meeting, the town voted to direct the Historical Commission to pursue re-opening the bridge to regular traffic. The Historical Commission hasn’t given up its efforts.
The commission and selectmen have sent a joint letter to Gov. Deval Patrick’s office and the state Department of Transportation requesting the state to review its position supporting the bridge’s closure. In return, the commission has offered to compromise by keeping the bridge closed in the winter.
“The desire of current or former leaders of the state transportation department to ‘preserve’ the few remaining Massachusetts covered bridges by ceasing to use them for their designed, intended and expensively renovated purpose should not overrule voters whose efforts helped save the bridge,” the town letter read. “We, and evidently most in Conway, are dismayed to see the Burkeville Covered Bridge effectively mothballed after its long-overdue, repeatedly fumbled renovation.”
The Historical Commission was unaware that the meeting was being arranged.
The meeting will take place one day after the Historical Commission’s monthly meeting. Commission Chairwoman Sarah Williams said commissioners will attend as bystanders.
The special meeting is scheduled for Thursday at 10 a.m. in the selectmen’s office at Town Office. It will include a site visit to the bridge.
You can reach Kathleen McKiernan at:
or 413-772-0261 ext. 268.