February 1, 2012 —
The bridge that runs over the Upper Delaware River from Pond Eddy, NY to Pond Eddy, PA, serves about 50 cars per day and a community with 24 properties and 12 full-time families.
Perhaps the most unique thing about the Pennsylvania community is that it can only be reached from New York, because no outside roads in Pennsylvania connect with it.
Replacement of the bridge has been an ongoing discussion between the two states, municipalities and interested groups for more than a decade. In 2009, an article in The River Reporter said that an agreement on the issue had finally been reached, and there would not be an attempt to upgrade the existing historic bridge, but instead the bridge would be torn down and replaced with a modern bridge.
While several of the people who live in the community have expressed strong support for a replacement, there are still groups and individuals who would like to save the historic bridge. It was built in 1905 and, according to the New York State Office of Parks Recreation and Historic Preservation, is one of only four Petit Truss bridges in New York; it is listed on the National, New York and Pennsylvania Historic Landmark Registers.
According to Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) spokesman James May, it’s not economically feasible to renovate and rebuild the bridge, and that replacement is the best option.
But at a meeting of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway (UDSB) on January 23, members said PennDOT engineers have never seriously considered the option of upgrading the existing bridge. The new replacement bridge will have an estimated cost of $12 million to be shared between the two states and the federal government. UDSB chair Nadia Rajsz said that the $4 million cost to New York is too high for a “bridge to nowhere.”
Non-voting member Glenn Pontier of Sullivan Rennaisance said that officials in New York and Pennsylvania “are committed by law to the River Management Plan; it’s their job to make sure that the heritage and values of the Upper Delaware River are protected and they’re not taking that seriously.”
The bridged was originally built to hold 18 tons, but because of deterioration it now has a seven-ton weight limit. The plan by PennDOT is to replace it with a bridge that will hold 40 tons. PennDOT has argued that this standard is necessary to gain federal funding, but Pontier suggested that it might be possible to have that requirement waived.
He asked the board to pass a resolution “urging that the decision to take down the existing bridge be reconsidered, and that another look be taken at maintaining the existing bridge and upgrading it to be able to carry 18 or 20 tons or some weight that is sufficient to meet the needs of the people living on the other side,” which the board passed.
However it would likely require a tremendous effort to change the course of the project at this point. Many interested organizations and agencies have already signed off on the replacement option, and May said there is a tentative schedule to send out bids for the project in the latter part of 2012, with construction beginning in spring of 2013.