May 21, 2014 —
Press release from Upper Delaware Council
BINGHAMTON, NY — The contract to build a new bridge to connect the New York and Pennsylvania communities of Pond Eddy over the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River is expected to be awarded in April 2016, with construction taking place in 2017 and possibly extending into 2018, at a total estimated cost of $11.9 million.
The New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge commission provided that updated schedule at its annual meeting held May 14 at New York State Department of Transportation (NY DOT) District 9 headquarters in Binghamton.
At last year’s meeting, it was announced that after the commission had first identified the Pond Eddy Bridge replacement as a capital construction project more than 20 years ago, an agreement had finally been reached among both states and the Federal Highway Administration to proceed with construction of a 504-foot-long, two-span bridge approximately 35 feet upstream of the current structure.
The 40-ton capacity bridge with curved steel trusses reminiscent of the current design would have a single, 14-foot lane and a six-foot sidewalk that could be converted into a second travel lane if necessary. Construction was expected to take 15 months.
The existing single-lane, wooden deck bridge provides the only vehicular access to approximately 27 land-locked properties in Pond Eddy, PA. Its restrictive, seven-ton weight limit and deteriorating condition requiring costly emergency repairs motivated replacement plans.
However, the 1904 bridge’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places has necessitated an extra level of review and fueled preservationists to advocate for rehabilitation over demolition and new construction. Other critics argued over the cost-benefit ratio for New York and PA to share the nearly $12 million expense of building a modern interstate crossing to serve fewer than a dozen year-round residents as well as provide access from the Town of Lumberland to the PA State Game Lands and Delaware State Forest acreage in Shohola Township.
Multiple engineering reports concluded that rehabilitation was not a viable option on the basis that it would ultimately cost more than replacement, have a shorter service life, require more maintenance, and fail to preserve the historic appearance due to replacement of all steel members. Alternatives of buying out the PA properties or constructing overland routes were also investigated and dismissed over the years.
A project update at the May 15 commission meeting revealed that the environmental clearance phase has been finalized, with the issuance of a Determination of No Significant Effect document in October 2013.
On November 19, 2013, a pre-application meeting took place at the bridge site with representation from the 15 agencies that will be responsible for or consulted to issue project-related permits, including the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, National Park Service, and state environmental regulatory authorities.
Susan Hazelton, PennDOT’s acting assistant district executive for design, reported that field surveys should wrap up this month. She said that the process of acquiring rights-of-way is largely responsible for the two-year time frame before the contract is ready to be awarded, although that April 2016 date represents a “worst-case scenario” that they hope to decrease in length by streamlining tasks as much as possible.
The new bridge will be constructed under a design-build contract. Applicants will be responsible for proposing their operational plans, including the specific design and time frame of a temporary causeway in the river that will be necessary since construction equipment has access only from the New York side.