A design has been decided -again- for the new Pond Eddy Bridge that reflects its historic attributes while finally linking the isolated Pennsylvania hamlet with full vehicle access.
The Pond Eddy Bridge Design Advisory Committee met August 29 at the Shohola Township Municipal Building reviewed the findings of PennDOT, the lead agency, and the New York State Department of Transportation.
One of the 11 consulting parties making up the Committee is the Upper Delaware Council (UDC). Laurie Ramie, UDC Executive Director, reported to the Council on Sept. 5th that the approved design is both more narrow and has more attention to aesthetics. The plan calls for a double steel truss with a single travel lane 15' 8" wide, and a raised sidewalk. The bridge will be 504 feet long. The bridge will be approximately 35 feet upstream from the present placement.
The current design, Ramie explained, includes lighter-looking steel framework and is narrower than the version announced in May. Gray coloration will be added to the concrete portions- including the railing- to give it a bluestone-like shade. The center pier will exhibit a stone-like relief effect.
Old stone abutments holding up the old bridge and the flared wing walls may be kept in place, pending determination by hydrologic studies that the river's flow wont be adversely affected. If they are retained, a scenic overlook has been suggested as well work with Sullivan County on the river access on the New York side. These historic mitigation efforts would augment the approximately 25 page history document that was prepared concerning the span.
The DOTs also agreed on an engineering firm to do the final design, SAI Consulting Engineers, Lemoyne, PA.
To meet the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) requirements, the new bridge will allow loads up to 40 tons.
One of the principal concerns for more than 20 years, is the deteriorating condition of the old bridge, which has prevented heavy vehicles such as fire trucks to reach the little Pennsylvania community of Pond Eddy. The hamlet has approximately 27 properties and only about a dozen full-time residents. The Norfolk Southern railroad goes past the community but there is no road access other than the bridge. Mountainous terrain, State Game Land and Delaware State Forest line the community on the west and the Delaware River on the east.
Repaired and maintained several times in the last quarter century while the debate has raged over the ultimate fate of the bridge, the Pond Eddy span presently is posted for only seven tons.
The 1904 steel truss bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.
Preservationists have fought the demolition of the landmark since the New York-Pennsylvania Joint Interstate Bridge Commission designated it as a capital project more than two decades ago.
Putting in a new road on the PA side was seen as far too costly. Buying out the Pond Eddy populace was also considered but abandoned.
Two years have been allotted for the final design phase which begins in 2014, Ramie noted. During that time, right-of-ways need to be negotiated and federal and state permits secured. After that- once the bid is awarded- construction is expected to take 15 months. Work could start in 2016 and be completed in 2018 at the earliest.
A full-length causeway would be built and in place for part of the construction period, to allow construction vehicles to cross the river.
Some of the Pond Eddy Design Advisory Committee members were steadfast in wanting the old bridge to remain in place, and have either declined at past meetings to vote if that option wasn't on the table, or dropped out of the committee. Parties who favored saving the bridge included Friends of the Pond Eddy Bridge- including residents of Pond Eddy, Pa.; the Upper Delaware Preservation Committee and the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway.
The committee met three times between December 2011 and March 2012. At that last meeting, there was a divided vote between a 3-span steel girder bridge or 2-span truss, costing about $12 million.
High-level negotiations between PA and NY ensued since then, resulting in a plan announced last April that had a 22 foot width and an estimated $9.6 million price tag. As it turned out, further refining of the aesthetics was to be done, leading to the new version reported to the committee on August 29.
The estimated cost of the project is currently about $11.5 million. Not clear is if the cost includes the $3 million for the preliminary engineering work or $750,000 estimated to be needed to remove the old bridge.
The last figure depends on whether or not PennDOT locates an interested buyer willing to relocate the historic span. Some parties have reportedly inquired about the bridge for sale.