BINGHAMTON – The contract to build a new bridge to connect the New York and Pennsylvania communities of Pond Eddy over the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River is expected to be let in April 2016, with construction taking place in 2017 and possibly extending into 2018, at a total estimated cost of $11.9 million.
The New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge Commission provided that updated schedule at its annual meeting held May 14 at New York State Department of Transportation (NY DOT) District 9 headquarters in Binghamton.
At last year’s meeting, it was announced that after the Commission had first identified the Pond Eddy Bridge replacement as a capital construction project more than 20 years ago, an agreement had finally been reached among both states and the Federal Highway Administration to proceed with construction of a 504-foot long, two
-span bridge approximately 35 feet upstream of the current structure.
The 40-ton capacity bridge with curved steel trusses reminiscent of the current design would have a single, 14-foot lane and a six-foot sidewalk that could be converted into a second travel lane if necessary. Construction was expected to take 15 months.
The existing single-lane, wooden deck bridge provides the only vehicular access to approximately 27 land-locked properties in Pond Eddy, PA. Its restrictive, 7-ton weight limit and deteriorating condition requiring costly emergency repairs motivated replacement plans.
However, the 1904 bridge’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places has necessitated an extra level of review and fueled preservationists to advocate for rehabilitation over demolition and new construction. Other critics argued over the cost-benefit ratio for NY and PA to share the nearly $12 million expense of building a modern interstate crossing to serve less than a dozen year-round residents as well as provide access from the Town of Lumberland to the PA State Game Lands and Delaware State Forest acreage in Shohola Township.
Multiple engineering reports concluded that rehabilitation was not a viable option on the basis that it would ultimately cost more than replacement, have a shorter service life, require more maintenance, and fail to preserve the historic appearance due to replacement of all steel members. Alternatives of buying out the PA properties or constructing overland routes were also investigated and dismissed over the years.
A project update at the May 15 commission meeting revealed that the environmental clearance phase has been finalized with the issuance of a Determination of No Significant Effect document in October 2013.
On Nov. 19, 2013, a pre-application meeting took place at the bridge site with representation from the 15 agencies that will be responsible for or consulted to issue project-related permits, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, and state environmental regulatory authorities.
Susan Hazelton, PennDOT’s Acting Assistant District Executive for Design, reported that field surveys should wrap up this month. She said that the process of acquiring rights-of-way is largely responsible for the two-year timeframe before the contract is ready to be let, although that April 2016 date represents a “worst-case scenario” that they hope to decrease in length by streamlining tasks as much as possible.
The new bridge will be constructed under a design-build contract. In order to receive approval, applicants will be responsible for proposing their operational plans, including the specific design and timeframe of a temporary causeway in the river that will be necessary since construction equipment only has access from the NY side.
Upper Delaware Council Executive Director Laurie Ramie recommended that the DOTs re-convene the Pond Eddy Bridge Design Advisory Committee, which met four prior times from Dec. 2011 to Aug. 2013, to provide a public briefing about the final design and anticipated local impacts before any construction begins.
The Bridge Commission approved $600,000 toward final design work for the Pond Eddy Bridge for the April 1, 2014-March 31, 2015 fiscal year, while also green-lighting $454,762 for emergency repairs to 44 steel beam stringers that connect to floor beams under the bridge deck. There were also 250 timber deck and curb boards replaced.
In 2011, emergency repairs totaling $493,000 took place on the Pond Eddy Bridge, followed by the replacement of 12 stringer beams last year for $120,000. Both the Pond Eddy Bridge and the even older Skinners Falls-Milanville Bridge are inspected on an accelerated six-month cycle for safety precautions.
Five Upper Delaware River bridges had the following funds approved to cover various phases of preliminary engineering, studies, and final designs for rehabilitation during the 2014-15 fiscal year:
- 1953 Cochecton, NY-Damascus, PA Bridge -$708,000;
- 1954 Narrowsburg, NY-Darbytown, PA Bridge -$540,000;
- 1961 Callicoon, NY-Damascus, PA Bridge -$500,000;
- 1901 Skinners Falls, NY-Milanville, PA Bridge -$480,000; and
- 1990 major re-build Kellams, NY-Stalker, PA Bridge -$300,000.
No funds were earmarked on the 2014-15 fiscal year capital projects schedule for the 1937 Hancock, NY-Buckingham, PA Bridge; the 1939 Port Jervis, NY-Matamoras, PA Bridge; the 1992 Lordville, NY-Equinunk, PA Bridge; or the 2006 Barryville, NY-Shohola, PA Bridge.
A total of $125,500 was approved for general maintenance, snow and ice control, for all 10 bridges this fiscal year, compared to the $107,171 spent from last April 1st through Mar. 31, 2014.