May 1, 2013 —
An agreement regarding the replacement of the bridge that has been the center of controversy for over a decade has apparently been reached, and involves significant changes from the initial plan.
The Pond Eddy Bridge, which is currently 18 feet wide, is a truss style structure, and because it has deteriorated over the past century since it was built in 1905, it has a weight limit of seven tons. The replacement bridge that was originally agreed to was to be 32 feet wide, have an interstate style, and have a weight limit of 40 tons.
But members of the group Save the Pond Eddy Bridge and other bridge supporters complained that the new bridge, which was to have a cost of $12 million and serve only 12 full-time families on the Pennsylvania side, was a bridge to nowhere, and a waste of taxpayer money.
The protests caught the attention of politicians in New York State, which prompted the New York Department of Transportation (NYDOT) to renegotiate the deal with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).
The results of those new negotiations were presented to a room full of New York officials, including Senator John Bonacic and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, on April 26. According to documents presented at the meeting, the new plans for the replacement bridge call for one that will remain a truss-style bridge and will therefore look very similar to the one that is currently there. The new bridge will also be 22 feet wide, rather than 32 feet. But the weight limit for the bridge will still be 40 tons.
According to one of the documents, a DOT official “negotiated to agree upon much reduced scope which focused on a lighter looking, narrower structure and have conceptually agreed to a 22-foot-wide truss bridge which would carry a single 14-foot lane and a 6-foot sidewalk. Jointly, PennDOT and NYSDOT approached (Federal Highway Administration) and gained their verbal approval.” The new plan will have a projected cost of $9 million.
This compromise solution, if it goes forward, will require a 15-month construction period, and will mean diverting the waters of the Upper Delaware River for some amount of time, which will likely require that at least for one season, river enthusiasts will need to portage around the construction site when traveling that section of the Upper Delaware River.
Critics have said that a better alternative would be to build a road to the community on the Pennsylvania side of the river, which is now accessible only by the bridge, but officials have said this solution would be too expensive.
A report compared on that option, prepared by a member of NYDOT, said, that a new route through the rugged terrain would require at least 3.5 miles of new road. The report said, “It is the opinion of regional staff that replacement of the existing bridge with an aesthetically pleasing and historically sensitive design will cost less and have fewer detrimental effects than developing any overland route.”
Bonacic issued a statement saying, “Having nearly $10 million invested into our infrastructure is positive from an investment standpoint. We worked hard with the NYDOT to have them change their original proposal. While some will always be unhappy with any change, I am pleased that NYDOT moved aesthetically closer to what more people wanted."