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December 03, 2016
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Putting the brakes on the Pond Eddy Bridge; Hinchey, Bonacic, UDSB and SC legislature weigh in

A view of the bridge from Route 97 on the New York side of the Delaware River.

The fate of the Pond Eddy Bridge, which crosses the Delaware River and connects the communities of Pond Eddy, NY and Pond Eddy, PA, continues to hang in the balance as a growing number of individuals, organizations, businesses and towns weigh in on the matter.

Noting that the Pond Eddy Interstate Bridge has been deemed deficient by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), and that those agencies have concluded that repair of the existing bridge is not cost-effective, the Sullivan County Legislature passed a resolution recently requesting that the replacement bridge design adopted by NYSDOT and PennDOT be consistent with the character and aesthetics of the Delaware River corridor and scenic byway.

Earlier this year, Town of Highland supervisor Andrew Boyar sent Senator John Bonacic and others a letter questioning current plans for the bridge, which provides the only access to a community of 12 full-time Pennsylvania residents and is slated for expansion to a 40-ton capacity at a total cost of approximately $12 million.

In response, Bonacic has requested a meeting of DOT staff at the regional and Albany offices, as well as interested local officials. “A four-million dollar investment for New York State for such a limited use bridge is hard to justify,” he wrote.

Congressman Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) has now requested that plans to replace the bridge be changed to preserve the current bridge, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hinchey believes the tax dollars would be better spent addressing the growing backlog of bridge and road projects in New York.

"Such use of New York's limited transportation funding to serve a handful of out-of-state residents seems inconsistent with the state's commitment to fiscal responsibility and counter to any rational prioritization for available infrastructure monies," he wrote.

Hinchey also noted that the proposed bridge would adversely impact important historic, scenic and recreational resources in the Upper Delaware corridor. "The demolition of the Pond Eddy Bridge and the construction of a modern, overpass-style replacement structure would diminish the historic character of the Pond Eddy area and adversely affect scenic, recreational and environmental qualities that contribute to the Upper Delaware's federal designation as well as its designation as a New York State Scenic Byway," he added.

Meanwhile, the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway, Inc. (UDSB) has called upon the National Park Service to use its authority to assure that the recreational values that qualified the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River for national recognition and protection are maintained.

A letter to NPS superintendent Sean McGuinness specifies that the current plan could require 15-24 months of construction activity including a causeway built in the river to access the construction zone. “We understand that boaters will be required to exit their vessels and portage around the causeway, effectively shutting down this section of the river to the unrestricted access that the public is currently entitled to enjoy on this recreational segment of a National Wild and Scenic River,” the letter specifies.

“This situation will negatively impact the local economy when would-be visitors are discouraged from recreating in this part of the river and outfitters' business is inevitably affected by the construction. Impacts to the river's ecology and the potential for an increased safety risk from flooding or ice jams that could be exacerbated by the placement of a man-made obstruction in the river's free-flowing condition should also be considered.”

The UDSB also noted that both states are signatories to the River Management Plan, which makes all state agencies responsible to uphold the plan's resource management and preservation objectives. Listed among the plan's goals are to "provide for the continued public use and enjoyment of a full range of recreational activities," and "maintain and enhance the corridor's social and economic vitality and its diversity."

In response, McGuinness explained in an email, “We are very engaged in this project and working with all parties for a successful outcome for a bridge we all can be proud of that will be a legacy for future generations. I don't intend to allow any lasting impacts to the river ecology or recreational use. A bridge that will compliment the outstanding scenic and cultural values of the Pond Eddy area of the Upper Delaware will most certainly also enhance the economic viability of the valley.”