NY-PA Interstate Bridges July 13, 2016 Meeting Report
Held at Tusten Town Hall Community Meeting Room, Narrowsburg
3:30-5 for Municipal Officials; 6:30-8 for General Public
David MacEwan, NYS DOT Region 9 Local Projects Liaison
Gary Borgacci, PennDOT District 4-0 Assistant District Bridge Engineer
Sue Williams, PennDOT Assistant Liaison Engineer (project manager for Pond Eddy, Skinners Falls, and Narrowsburg Bridges)
Neil Shemo, AECOM Technical Services (consultant to PennDOT for Skinners Falls & Narrowsburg Bridges)
Jim Esposito, NYS DOT Regional Structures Engineer
Loren Goering, National Park Service Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River Chief of Maintenance (Roebling’s Delaware Aqueduct)
Summary Notes from Both Sessions:
• See above handout of the capital projects synopsis and timeline for the 10 interstate bridges & the Roebling Bridge. There is no work scheduled currently through 2020 on the Hancock-Buckingham, Lordville-Equinunk, and Barryville-Shohola Bridges. The schedule has been arranged so that there are no overlaps of work projects involving detours, for example, Cochecton-Damascus major rehab was moved to after Narrowsburg-Darbytown is done. Dave MacEwan pledged to update the timeline every six months.
• The NY-PA Joint Interstate Bridge Commission formalizes the partnership between the two state DOTs through a codified law to oversee the 10 Upper Delaware River bridges, with NY having responsibility for the northern 5 bridges and PA having responsibility for the southern 5 bridges. They share expenses 50/50 however.
• Skinners Falls Bridge – The contract for emergency repairs has been let to Leeward Construction, which must meet an August 29, 2016 completion date or face penalties. The repairs will allow the bridge to re-open with a posted 4-ton load limit. Boater traffic will be diverted during the repairs, as per the Aid to Navigation Safety Plan required by the National Park Service. Work will include replacing 42 deteriorated stringers, repairing timber running boards on the deck, and installing an 8’6” clearance portal (aka “headache” bar) that will prevent oversized vehicles from crossing it. Under no circumstances should any vehicles over 4 tons use the bridge since engineers assert that overweight vehicles are largely responsible for speeding up the bridge’s deterioration. It’s a safety hazard. Discussions took place about how to enforce the weight restriction besides the headache bar. Ideas were to request an increased police presence or install a camera as a deterrent. DOT has no authority to cite motorists. Regarding the long-term fate of the 1901 bridge, that will be determined by a study of purpose and need. The three options that always must be explored are: repair, replace, or remove. Public input will be part of that process.
• Detour signs for Skinners Falls Bridge – Numerous complaints were fielded about the circular location of the NY side signage and lack of forewarning about the bridge’s closure. PennDOT has a detour coordinator on staff but that would pertain to the PA side. Putting up a detour informational sign in Cochecton was suggested. People need proactive instructions and clear directions. Another suggestion was offered that DOT personnel try following their own detour signs to test their effectiveness.
• Cochecton-Damascus Bridge – Emergency repairs will start in late July or early August 2016, with one-lane traffic allowed, pending a 2019 capital project to replace the deck and do structural repairs.
• Roebling Bridge – Loren Goering reported that this 2016-2017 National Park Service project in conjunction with the Federal Highways Administration will require periodic full closures over a 2-3 week period, though the bridge will be open on evenings and weekends. The detour route will be over the Barryville-Shohola Bridge. In-river work includes repair of the icebreakers. The road work portion of it will start after Labor Day. The contractor is allowed 100 days to complete it. Work includes replacing eight expansion joints, re-sealing and repairing cracks on the deck, and repaving the approach roads in Lackawaxen and Minisink Ford. The concrete deck was most recently sealed around 10 years ago.
• Pond Eddy Bridge – A newspaper notice announcing a “July 2016” start with alternating boater diversions for this $17 million bridge replacement was questioned. The contractor is required to abide by the original work schedule and notification procedures. Discussion ensued about the justification for replacing this bridge given its limited use. DOT officials said that cost isn’t supposed to factor into the decision, only the purpose and need. Every other alternative was reviewed to provide the required access to Pond Eddy, PA including property buy-outs and building a road through the State Gamelands at an estimated $40 million. It would be considered an environmental injustice to make homeowners sell their properties if they’re not all willing to leave. The bridge’s replacement has been pending since 1978.
• Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge – This $9,640,000 rehabilitation project is at the stage of 90% toward advancing final design plans. Bids will be advertised in March 2017, opened in May, construction will occur over two seasons, and is slated to end in Fall 2018. There have been no changes to the overall design or logistics. Work will include installation of a new concrete-filled grid deck and crash-tested railings, replacement of deteriorated stringers and floor beams, repairs to steel members, and painting the arch. The controlled one-lane traffic pattern will continue throughout construction with the exception of 15 overnight closures needed when the floor beams are being replaced. Those non-consecutive closures will not occur on weekends or holidays. Separate detours routes are planned for cars (using Cochecton Bridge) and trucks (using Barryville Bridge) during the 15 overnight closures when the floor beams are being replaced. Boater traffic will be diverted to the side where overhead work is not occurring. PennDOT will pay to station an ambulance on the PA side to assist with any emergency response. The contractor is responsible for making advance public notifications about the closure schedule and will have a list of contacts to inform directly. Notification will occur through published advertisements, websites, and flashing information on a Variable Message Sign at minimum. An issue with obstructed site distance from users of DeMauro Lane turning toward the Narrowsburg Bridge due to a bridge-related sign being in the line of vision was raised. A suggestion was made to color-code signage for different projects, such as to follow detours from another bridge, to provide some additional clarity about the signs’ purposes.
• Kellams-Stalker Bridge – A public meeting will take place in the spring of 2017 to provide an update on the 2017 project for structural repairs and painting. The work will require an expected 8-9 month full closure. Work should be completed within that one season. The DOT was reminded to coordinate with a road bridge project on S.R. 1018 that will also require a closure. Reassurance was given that the Kellams-Stalker work would be delayed if it was impacted by the unavailability of that route.
• Callicoon-Damascus Bridge – A public informational meeting is being organized for mid-August 2016 at the Delaware Youth Center in Callicoon to provide an overview and solicit feedback on this $8 million project for 2018 which is in preliminary design phase to replace the deck and make repairs to the steel members and substructure. There will be alternating single-lane closures with temporary sidewalks installed during construction in recognition of the amount of pedestrian use.
• DOT Communications – Agency representatives were reminded that the Upper Delaware is a bi-state community and that it would be helpful if there was a combined source to share both PA and NY information regarding the bridges. The NY-PA Joint Interstate Bridge Commission does not have its own website, and the two DOT websites for NY and PA can be difficult to navigate. Social media should be explored also. The traffic tab on Google Maps is a good place to update travelers who aren’t familiar with the area of bridge closures and detours. NYS has 511ny.org for traffic alerts. PA issues alerts through its Public Information Officer, James May, who will include anyone on his email list who wishes it by contacting him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Sustainability – The audience urged the DOTs to prioritize maintenance funding for the interstate bridges since decisions are often based on economics. The DOT officials confirmed that there is a competition for dollars. Local DOT residences have to advocate getting these projects funded based on their conditions. It was reported that the bridges are inspected at least twice a year and they have a lot of needs based on their ages. There was a time when maintenance was mostly focused on addressing emergency repairs but more attention is being paid now to the importance of routine, cyclical maintenance to make them last longer since their replacement costs are so high. Decks should last approximately 40 years with proper maintenance. These Upper Delaware bridges are historically and ecologically sensitive areas which makes the situation even more challenging.