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Progress is slow at bridge meeting

February 22, 2012

While groups of supporters of the Pond Eddy Bridge hassled into the night with each other and with a consultant engineer over the best design of the new bridge, George Ollert, a resident of Pond Eddy, PA, was getting more frustrated by the minute.

“It’s been 15 years that we have been discussing this bridge,” Ollert said. “When we started, it was $6 million. Now it’s $12 million. The guy that is for the old bridge doesn’t have to cross it every day. When I want to clean out my septic system, it costs me $1,000. They have to make three trips. I can’t get propane service. I can’t get oil service. If my house catches fire, I’m done. I don’t care what style of bridge we get. I’m very nervous each time my grandchildren cross it. We need a new bridge, that’s all.”

Some questioned the high price of a bridge that would serve 24 properties on the Pennsylvania side with only 12 full-time families.

“We need to come up with one or two designs out of the nine that are on the table,” said Kevin Atkins, liaison engineer with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). “Rehab of the old bridge is not viable. The bridge has to be replaced and we’re looking tonight for a general consensus. We looked at the models that people suggested at our last meeting. We are looking to hold two more meetings and then we have to make a decision.”

Not everybody agreed with him, especially Richard Plunz, a strong advocate for the old bridge. “It’s still possible and it’s a whole lot cheaper and faster,” he said. None of the engineers and PennDOT officials agreed with him. Two members of the design committee left the meeting early because they opposed building a new bridge.

The engineers suggested that a straw vote be taken over the nine design options so that most would be rejected and three would be examined in detail before the next meeting.

As the meeting extended through the evening, the group came up with three options: a three-span steel-girders option costing about $8.1 million; a two-span arch costing $13.1 million, and a truss design costing about $11 million.

“For the next meeting, we’ll work on refining these three options in order to get final consensus,” said Bob Leonard of Erdman & Anthony of Mechanicsburg, PA.

The engineers said that it would probably be possible to work on the bridge without closing down the river traffic.

“The longer it takes, the more expensive it will become,” said George C. Fluhr Jr. chairman of the Shohola Township