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Summer Construction to Impact Upper Delaware River Bridges

Photo: Construction of an $18.9 million Pond Eddy Bridge over the Upper Delaware River began in July 2016, with the new bridge slated to open for traffic by Winter 2018.

By Laurie Ramie, Upper Delaware Council

DUNMORE – Continued construction of a new Pond Eddy Bridge, an extensive rehabilitation of the 1953 Narrowsburg, NY-Darbytown, PA Bridge and a contract-letting for major repairs to the 1990 rebuilt Kellams, NY-Stalker, PA Bridge will occur this summer.

The New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge Commission approved $12,231,329 in 2017 capital construction costs for the latter two bridges at its annual meeting held May 24 in Dunmore, PA, while reviewing inspection results for all 10 Upper Delaware River crossings and allocating $91,500 for fiscal year maintenance.

The Commission also heard a request by the Upper Delaware Council, Inc. (UDC) to install river height signage on select bridges as a public safety tool.

Longer-range projects include replacing decks on both the 1961 Callicoon, NY-Damascus, PA Bridge in 2019-20 and the 1953 Cochecton, NY-Damascus, PA Bridge in 2020, and painting the 1939 Port Jervis, NY-Matamoras, PA Bridge in 2021.

“They’re some beautiful bridges but they’re showing their age,” Commission Chair and PENNDOT District 4-0 Executive George J. Roberts observed.

The contractor for the $18.9 million replacement of the Pond Eddy, NY-Pond Eddy, PA Bridge – D.A. Collins Construction Inc. of Catskill, NY – mobilized on-site July 13, 2016 and will work through another full construction season toward opening the new bridge to traffic by December 2018.

The last leg of the project will be to demolish the 1904 structure that is listed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places by Fall 2019.

DOT engineers reported at the meeting that the steel members have been fabricated and are due to arrive in June. The focus for 2017 is building out from the New York side, utilizing a temporary rock causeway in the river for access, that will all be switched over to the Pennsylvania side next spring.

While the new concrete structure located approximately 55 feet upstream of the existing timber deck crossing will enable raising the 7-ton weight limit to modern standards, the two-span bridge will retain visual similarities to the original Petit truss design and use a Pennsylvania bluestone pattern on the stone pier and abutments. There will be a six-foot pedestrian sidewalk. A Design Advisory Committee selected an open rail style and overall taupe color scheme. An interpretive panel will be installed on the New York side as a historic mitigation measure.

D.A. Collins Construction was also awarded the contract to rehabilitate the Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge, which will begin in June 2017 with completion eyed by September 2018 at a reduced price tag of $7,741,329 that the Commission approved.

Savings were realized by eliminating some unspecified “redundancies” found in the original design that had been estimated at $11.6 million. Workers will do patching and repairs, replace the open grid deck with flush-filled concrete, install all new railings and sidewalks, and paint it in the same green color.

Up to 15 overnight closures will be needed to install and then remove a steel barrier down the bridge’s center to switch over traffic to the opposite lane. Detour routes to Cochecton (cars only) and Barryville (trucks also) will be established and publicized.

The bridge has been reduced to a controlled single lane of traffic since August 2013 following a down-posting to 15 tons and emergency repairs after a Nov. 2012 inspection found advanced deterioration and corrosion.

A $4.49 million allocation was approved for the Kellams-Stalker Bridge, for which the contract to replace the open grate steel deck and steel beams, repair damaged guiderail and other elements, and paint the structure will be awarded in July 2017.

Because this is a one-lane suspension bridge, there will be short, day-time closures beginning in September 2017 to accommodate field survey work and full closures during the rehabilitation work from April to June 2018. A 22-mile detour loop to Callicoon will be implemented. The bridge will close again after Labor Day 2018 for the final painting phase of the project.

While no work is scheduled for the 1901 Skinners Falls, NY-Milanville, PA Bridge following its Nov. 10, 2016 re-opening after it was abruptly closed on Dec. 11, 2015 and underwent $701,000 worth of emergency repairs, its ultimate fate remains under study.

Engineers are developing a “statement of purpose and need” to investigate the customary options to replace, rehabilitate or remove this National Register of Historic Places-listed Baltimore Truss bridge. Public consultation is part of that process.

The replacement of steel stringers, 250 square feet of wooden running boards, and other repair work done by Leeward Construction of Honesdale, PA also included a first-time installation of overhead clearance bar portal frames on both sides.

The so-called “headache” bars mounted at 8 feet, 6 inches with the goal of preventing oversized vehicles from crossing the 4-ton posted bridge and causing it further stress have not served as the desired deterrent. Maintenance crews have had to repair the portals three times in a six-month period and regularly find the safety tubes struck.

NYS DOT Region 9 Director Jack Williams speculated whether any technology exists to mount a camera that would snap photos of the culprit vehicles, to which Roberts responded that there would be privacy issues to consider in Pennsylvania, at least.

No capital projects are currently anticipated for the 1937 Hancock, NY-Buckingham, PA Bridge; the 1992 re-built Lordville, NY-Equinunk, PA Bridge; or the 2006 re-built Barryville, NY-Shohola, PA Bridge.

Lastly, both Roberts and Williams said they will respond after considering the Upper Delaware Council’s request for the Commission to include river height signage in contracts for replacements, rehabilitations, and major repairs of appropriate bridges under their jurisdiction.

The National Park Service (NPS) Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River has discontinued their past practice of supplying the color-coded signs to the DOT agencies to install and maintain because they feel the signs are not an effective strategy; but Management Assistant Carla Hahn confirmed at the May 24 meeting, “The Park Service supports the UDC’s efforts on this.”

The UDC is urging the NY-PA Joint Interstate Bridge Commission to assume responsibility for this program.

“Our organization believes that these signs are still valuable and prudent. River height gauges offer an easily-accessible and interpreted visual information source for river users to supplement all the additional methods of communicating various river conditions,” a May 4 letter signed by UDC 2017 Chairperson James A. Greier stated.

“Where appropriate, the signs should be recessed into the bridge pier to better withstand weather conditions and resist any vandalism. They should be placed on bridges that have an associated public access in order to offer an explanatory chart on shore of that sign’s significance and to provide other key information, such as the National Park Service’s River Conditions Hotline available at 845-252-7100 or social media platforms (while acknowledging that securing cellular or broadband service can be challenging in our rural area, which further justifies the helpful nature of visual reference signs)”, the letter continued.

The UDC offered to work with the Commission to help design effective and durable signage to meet the objective of promoting river safety for the over a quarter million visitors who annually come to the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River to recreate as well as local residents who want a quick read on river height changes for its informational value and to prepare for potential flood conditions.


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