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Save the bridge

May 3, 2012

Zac Stuart-Pontier, in his provocative column in The River Reporter last week, raises an issue that many of us thought was dead: a new bridge to replace the historic structure at Pond Eddy. PennDot would have us believe the project is a done deal, but from what I have read, that organization does not even have a design nor all of the necessary permitting. Furthermore, historic preservation groups and legislators are once again giving the project a critical eye.

As well they should. The National-Registered Pond Eddy Bridge, with its current scale and character, is a bridge to somewhere; but a 40-ton concrete monstrosity, costing $12 million (cost overruns, anyone?) and servicing a handful of families, is truly a whole lot of bridge to nowhere.

PennDot said that it considered all the alternatives—buyouts, building a road, and repair of the old bridge—and rejected them. Why would they not? They need to justify their existence, and this multi-million dollar boondoggle will surely keep them busy for awhile.

But to many of us who have lived in this valley over the decades, saving our “old stuff” is a time-honored value, an imperative. We see what preservation has meant to the economy of a Newport or to the Berkshires. Loss of an area’s heritage does not happen overnight. Rather, it is a slow erosion—the collapsing of a canal lock wall here or the leaking rooftop on a grand old building there. But sometimes it comes in more dramatic spurts, like a fire in the night—or the planned destruction of an historic landmark at the hands of PennDot.

Take heart, park service. This is our Scenic and Recreational River. Uphold the spirit of the river plan, talk to your superiors in Philadelphia, and take another long hard look at PennDot’s affront to our rural heritage.

And to all of us, if there is still hope, then we need to join the battle in earnest, and fight to save the bridge.

Pete Comstock
Glen Spey, NY