March 29, 2012 —
With local, state and national officials all calling for a reexamination of the decision to remove the historic Pond Eddy Bridge, I am resigning from the PennDOT-sponsored Design Advisory Committee as the designated representative of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) Advisory Board.
It is the belief of the UDSB Advisory Board that the existing bridge should be retained and brought back to its original design load of 15-18 tons. The UDSB Advisory Board has asked that the Interstate Bridge Commission reopen the study of this bridge, and consider alternative methods of providing access to Pond Eddy, Pennsylvania.
Previous studies did not contain accurate information about alternatives, and never provided a true cost comparison. It is clear that the firm leading the design exercise for PennDOT did not allow bridge restoration to be part of a comprehensive or comparative discussion.
In fact many issues that relate to a new bridge were not allowed as part of the discussion. These include:
• Decrease in clearance between bridge structure and water level. All of the proposed new designs lower the structure relative to the river water level in comparison to the existing bridge.
• Permanent disruption in river flow. Designs that add additional piers increase the possibility of flooding hazards. PennDOT argues that additional piers would enhance the river flow based on its assertion that the existing pier is in the middle of the deepest river channel section, and the new piers would be smaller and on either side. Visual inspection indicates that the existing pier and the river bed would have to be removed in order to assure that the mid-channel is deepest.
• Temporary disruption in river flow #1. PennDOT indicated that bridge replacement construction can only be accomplished by building a “causeway” across the river, so that during the period of construction for the new structure heavy equipment can have the access… A causeway will result in a one- or two-year disruption in the recreational use of the river. This will be devastating to the rafting and fishing industries—and have an adverse effect on migratory and other fish species….
According to a search of the Pike County tax maps (within the last month), it appears that there are only 23 private tax parcels on the Pennsylvania side served by the bridge, not 26 as PennDot claims, although it may be including state land parcels. The combined market value of the 23 parcels is $2,148,013 (or assessed value of $459,960 x 4.67 “common level ratio” to get the market value). Of course, this indicates that the cost of a new bridge will be in the range of five times the market value of the properties that it serves.
The existing bridge already allows access of vehicles up to seven tons. This historic structure should be brought back to its original capacity [approximately 15 to 18 tons] which will then allow crossings by emergency vehicles….
If there is an additional need for trucks of greater tonnage, then Pennsylvania should extend one of three existing roads that reach close to Pond Eddy. Parkers Glen Road comes within 1.8 miles and is roughed out the remaining distance [it can be seen on Google Earth]. Fire Tower Road comes from Route 6 to within .8 miles, but it would need to cross over the hill to Pond Eddy. A third road comes up from Matamoras through Mil Rift. There is also a railroad running through Pond Eddy, capable of carrying huge loads, on the chance someone actually wanted to construct a new house….
Essentially, if Pennsylvania believes that this community should receive services that everyone in the Commonwealth is entitled to—then it should provide them. PA should not destroy a nationally recognized bridge, threaten the Delaware River and ask the citizens of New York to pay half the cost.
[The above has been edited down with the permission of the author from his letter of resignation from the Pond Eddy Design Advisory Committee to the NYS and PA Departments of Transportation. Pontier represented the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB), and this is a personal resignation. Carol Roig of the Town of Highland will replace him representing the UDSB. Click here for a full-length version of the letter.