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Can we save the bridge?

April 26, 2012

A few weeks ago my dad sent me a link to an article about how he had resigned from the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway board. The article said that Glenn Pontier had “resigned over the controversy concerning construction of a new Pond Eddy Bridge.”

I was immediately intrigued and I called him to get the inside scoop. Our conversations all start out the same.

Me: “Hey Dad.”

Him: “Hey Zac.”

Me: “How’s it going?”

Him: (Chuckle) It’s going well.

Me: “What’s going on with the Pond Eddy Bridge?”

He told me that they were taking steps to tear down the Pond Eddy Bridge and replace it with a new bridge that would hold much more weight. “Pennsylvania has a policy to replace any bridge that doesn’t meet its modern standard of 40 tons,” he told me.

“It’s actually probably not a bad policy; most bridges that don’t meet modern standards probably should be replaced—but not all of them. If we replaced all of them, we’d have no covered bridges in Vermont.”

After a little bit of research, I learned that the Pond Eddy Bridge is one the last remaining petit-truss bridges in the Northeast; it was constructed in 1903 by the Oswego Bridge Company and it is listed on the New York State Register of Historic Places.

The bridge is one lane, with wooden beams below and a large steel support structure above. It stretches 521 feet across the Delaware River and connects the small community of Pond Eddy, PA to Route 97 and the world. It’s a beautiful old bridge.

The community of Pond Eddy is landlocked and fewer than a dozen people live there year round. The rest of the 23 parcels of land are weekend homes, hunting cabins and fishing shacks.

The Pond Eddy Bridge has been deemed deficient by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) as well as by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), which control the bridge. Currently the only way to get emergency vehicles, deliveries and anything else into the community is over the bridge.

You get where this is going, right? The bridge either needs to be fixed or replaced. Right now, there is a plan in place to spend $12 million to tear down the original 1903 bridge and build a brand new one.

the bridge WE use on a DAILY BASIS

All, but ALL, of the energy being generated to save the bridge comes from people who enjoy its aesthetic but do not NEED it to get to home. Having lived here (and there are way more than the '12' of us popularly but falsely asserted) for 20+ years, I have followed the bridge saga from an intensely necessary perspective. PennDOT has taken decades to wade through incredible paperwork and interminable studies to see what was feasible for us to have safe passage home.

I was once also in favor of saving the then beautiful bridge. Unfortunate but true, it has now deteriorated to such an extent that PennDOTs assertion that replacement is the viable alternative is an obviously sound one. Studies as to all alternatives have gone on for over two decades. Now that action is finally to happen it seems people who do not live there nor need the bridge would like to go back to square one.

For 20+ years we have had no fire nor other emergency services. Currently we cannot even get winter heating oil delivered and must carry it in the backs of our cars on public roads. Horror accident waiting to happen with a simple rear end collision. This matter is urgent and I pray that the fully considered actions for replacing the bridge move forward before there is a truly dire event that makes everyone regret their delays and quibbles.

Yes, the bridge was cool, I surely thought that when i bought my home way back when. Now it is unsafe and a nightmare. I would wonder who would give up their modern car and ride in a buggy behind a horse because it is 'historical' and 'charming'. I suspect not one of you who is against a new bridge for us. I would not wish any of this on any of you who drive into your driveways, happy to arrive home and never considering what a pleasure and blessing that actually is.