NARROWSBURG - A prolonged construction delay on the Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge led Iris Helfeld to start a letter writing campaign. Concerned for the safety of the community, Helfeld mailed over 350 letters to the governor and members of congress after the bridge was restricted to a one-way in 2013. Helfeld said the bridge is a “lifeline” to people on both sides of the river since they may need to get to Wayne Memorial Hospital in Honesdale or Catskill Regional Medical Center in Callicoon, New York.
Because of those letters, representatives from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and the New York Department of Transportation met in Tusten, New York for the second time recently, to discuss the management of the 10 inter-state bridges.
Dave MacEwan who is the liaison with PennDOT and the New York DOT as well as the project manager for three of the 10 bridges, said the joint interstate bridge commission, outlines the roles the PA and NY DOTs have in management of the bridges. New York is responsible for the five northern bridges: Cochecton-Damascus, Kellams-Stalker, Hancock-Buckingham, Lordville-Equinunk and Callicoon-Damascus. Whereas PennDOT is responsible for the five southern bridges: Port Jervis-Matamoras, Pond Eddy, Barryville-Shohola, Narrowsburg-Darbytown and Skinners Falls-Milanville and the National Park Service is responsible for the Roebling Delaware Aqueduct. The “primary responsibility” of the commission, MacEwan said is that the states share the expenses equally.
MacEwan went down the list of bridges and said how the Port Jervis-Matamoras Bridge may be painted with one lane of traffic in each direction, while work is done. An exact date hasn’t been set, but that is looking to happen from 2020 to 2021, but funds still need to be secured.
The Pond Eddy Bridge currently has both DOTs “pretty excited,” MacEwan said, since the new bridge is under construction and work is expected to happen shortly.
The Barryville-Shohola Bridge has no work planned.
The Park Service has an “ongoing project” that includes repairs and resurfacing of the deck on the Roebling Delaware Aqueduct that will be done this year.
Loren Goering, the chief of maintenance for the Upper Delaware Scenic and Recreational River said the work on the Roebling Delaware Aqueduct will be completed within this calendar year. A two-part project that includes the icebreakers in the water will not affect traffic, resurfacing the deck, replacement of the aged expansion joints and repavement of access roads with the installation of drainage will require some closures. The main closure will occur, Goering said, when the expansion joints are replaced since each joint will take five hours to replace.
MacEwan said PennDOT has planned to begin work on the Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge in the middle of 2017 into 2018, which will include structural repairs and paving. During that time, one-lane traffic will alternate with 15 overnight full closures planned and separate detours for cars and heavy trucks.
The Skinners Falls-Milanville Bridge is in the midst of an ongoing emergency repair project that MacEwan said is expected to be done August 29 and reopen with a four-ton capacity. The bridge is currently closed and will remain closed with off-site detour signs. For the time being, PennDOT has a study happening to determine a “long range plan” for the bridge.
Sue Williams from PennDOT explained that the project is in the “environmental phase,” which studies the purpose of the project and the need for the bridge. Following that study, whether a bridge should be rehabilitated, replaced or removed is figured by stakeholders, which are the New York DOT and the Pennsylvania DOT as well as the Federal Highway Administration who will make the final decision.
There are ongoing repairs scheduled for the Cochecton-Damascus Bridge that will include finger joints on the bridge deck. MacEwan said a “larger repair project” is planned for 2019, but it won’t start until after the “Narrowsburg rehabilitation is complete.”
There is a planned project for 2018 for the Callicoon-Damascus Bridge, that will include a “pretty major rehabilitation,” said MacEwan. The full deck will be replaced with alternating one lane traffic and a temporary sidewalk to maintain pedestrian traffic. In the end, it will be a “completely new bridge.” That project is expected to take the full construction season. The New York DOT is leading the project. The footprint of the existing bridge will not change, said MacEwan.
New York DOT has planned a project for 2017 for the Kellams-Stalker Bridge that will include structural repairs and painting, which will require full closures and detours.
As for updates with the Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge, MacEwan said design plans are “advancing” and are in the final design stage. The bridge will receive a new grid deck that will be partially filled with concrete and extend onto sidewalks. Because the stringers below the present deck have deteriorated, many stringers will be replaced which affects the floor beams and so, floor beam work will require a maximum of 15 closures. During those closures, PennDOT will pay for an emergency response service to be stationed on the Pennsylvania side of the bridge. There is already emergency response on the New York side. Cars will be detoured to the Cochecton-Damascus Bridge and trucks will go to the Barryville-Shohola Bridge. To notify the public of the closures, MacEwan said PennDOT does issue notices in newspapers and there is a website. The bridges will not be closed without the public being notified, he said.
Once the Narrowsburg-Darbytown Bridge is complete, MacEwan said it will be returned to the former two lane traffic with a blinking light on the New York side. The estimated cost of the bridge project is $9,640,000. The concrete deck, MacEwan explained, allows for drainage so the stringers and floor beams have a “longer life span.” Concrete decks also, are safer in rain and icy conditions than an open grid deck.
One DOT representative said “different pots of money” determine how maintenance is dealt with, and a lot of county budgets in Wayne County depend on how much remains once winter is over. The cost estimate for the Callicoon-Damascus Bridge is $8 million. The cost to replace the bridge, the representative said is “tremendous” and so, steps like washing and sealing the decks are taken to maintain the structure.
Both DOTS paint bridges on a cycle, wash them every two years and seal the decks so many years too. But, after 20 to 25 years, large treatments tend to be needed. MacEwan noted that the bridges last 40 to 60 years because they are maintained and so “maintenance money” has to be spent.
With the Skinners Falls-Milanville Bridge, MacEwan said it is not known whether the bridge will be rehabbed or replaced, but once there is construction, he believes it will affect the waterways, which will require a boater safety plan. When work on the Kellams-Stalker Bridge begins next summer, it will take eight to nine months.
If the construction jobs aren’t completed on time, Williams said there is a penalty clause for the contractor; but it does depend on whose fault it is.
From the public, one man said the DOTs should be “embarrassed” because of the inadequate signage regarding the closure of the Skinners Fall-Milanville Bridge. As the public continued to express frustration about signage for detours and bridge closures, MacEwan said, “There’s no excuse for signage not being good, because Rt. 97 is an artery up and down the corridor.”
Funding to replace or fix a bridge, Williams said depends on the project purpose and need. MacEwan added that, the “condition drives maintenance, really.”
A date has not been set yet, but Williams said there will be a public meeting for the Skinners Falls-Milanville Bridge at some point.
For more information about road closures and detours, visit the Upper Delaware Council’s website at http://www.upperdelawarecouncil.org/.