By Jeanne Sager
HORTONVILLE September 15, 2006 If anythings certain in life, it certainly isnt the fate of the Callicoon bridge.
The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has plans to do . . . well, something, with the bridge that links Callicoon to Damascus, Pa.
The project should start in 2009 and will be under the direction of NYSDOT.
But the officials who held Tuesday nights meeting at the Hortonville Firehouse didnt know much more.
Another meeting will be held next summer, said Project Manager Pam Gendron.
Thats when theyll be able to say whether the upcoming project will be a rehabilitation of the 45-year-old bridge or a complete replacement.
This is what we call the scoping phase of the project, she told a crowd of mostly Damascus residents. Its real early in the project development process.
That said, Gendron was able to present a number of options the state has already looked at and essentially discarded.
Alternate traffic routes, including the use of interstate bridges in Lordsville, Cochecton and Stalker, Pa. were all impractical, Gendron said.
The Kellams-Stalker Bridge isnt even open because of extensive damage from the June flood.
The state has already zeroed in on Callicoon where the plan is to fix Interstate Bridge 7 or replace it entirely.
Inspections done on a rotating biennial basis have revealed damage to the support structure of the bridge.
The steel fixed bearings of the bridge, designed to rotate around a pin, no longer move because of corrosion.
The giant concrete piers have been eroded and the steel rebar inside is visible, a sign that there may be even more damage from chlorides inside.
The top deck of the bridge is also showing its age, with cracked pavement at both approaches.
The state tries to get a minimum of 50 years out of a bridge, Gendron said, and the Callicoon Interstate Bridge is fast closing in on half a century.
With rerouting traffic to alternate bridges not a feasible option, the state asked Project Engineer Tom Card to draw up a list of spots where a new bridge could be built.
Traffic could then be routed over a temporary structure built somewhere near the existing bridge or continue to use the current structure while a new, permanent bridge is built at an alternate location.
If we build a temporary structure, its essentially a new structure so there would still be the same impacts, Gendron noted.
Card presented six alternate sites Tuesday four of which he said would be so costly that theyre unlikely to ever happen.
Each would involve the construction of a new bridge, with the outlet on the New York side ending somewhere on River Road, a one-lane road owned and maintained by the Town of Delaware.
The road does not currently meet specs for a state road and likely never could, Card said, in part because the narrow driving lane is bordered on one side by the river and the other by railroad property.
The proposal would also require the state to acquire rights of way on new properties on each side of the river costing NYSDOT a hefty sum to pay the landowners in question.
And the road on the Pennsylvania side, Delaware Avenue, would suddenly have increased traffic a negative for current residents.
More likely are options D, E and F.
D and F would allow for construction of a new bridge while the old one is in use.
D could be constructed in an S shape so its New York approach would be slightly upstream from the current location, and the Pennsylvania approach would lie slightly downstream.
Motorists currently navigate a sharp curve as they travel down Pennsylvania Route 1016 approaching the bridge.
The new approach on the Pennsylvania side would allow for a more gradual entrance onto the bridge.
Option F would end in the same place, with the New York opening just downstream of the current approach.
But both would affect the homeowner living at the corner of Route 1016 near the bridge, Card said, a factor that will weigh heavily in the states decision making process.
The finally option for replacement would be stage construction, which would shut down one lane of traffic for construction, leaving the second lane open to traffic.
A light would be erected at each end of the bridge to direct traffic, and another would likely be set up at the intersection of Route 1016 and River Road (which ends right near the bridge approach).
This option isnt likely to require the purchase of additional rights of way, making it one of the cheapest for the state to consider, Card said.
Gendron said it would also be less likely to impact the community in a negative way, although she said this bridge is longer than most where stage construction is used.
Because of its length, the cycle of the traffic light will have to be elongated in order to ensure all traffic can make its way across the bridge.
That could keep vehicles waiting at one end for more than 5 minutes, she said.
That drew concerns from a number of residents, who quickly asked what would be done to facilitate emergency vehicles.
Gendron said they would provide the fire department with a device to change the traffic light.
That sounds perfect, said Callicoon Fire Chief Willie Maxwell reached at home the following day.
Maxwell said Callicoon has a coverage area on the Pennsylvania side of the river which it shares with the Equinunk, Pa. department. The number of calls that takes his men over the bridge varies, he said.
But every emergency over there is important, whether its 1 or 15, he cautioned.
Fixing or replacing the bridge drew little criticism from the crowd with the exception of Ramona Jan of Delaware Avenue, who admitted she likes the bridge the way it is.
But Jan asked questions and threw in suggestions for a new bridge.
She asked the transportation officials if a new bridge could include a bicycle path and keep the siderails low to facilitate pedestrians trying to catch a view of the river below.
Her request was seconded by Dave Soete of the Upper Delaware Council, who asked that Callicoons tourism industry be remembered in this process.
Soete asked if there were plans for an expanded pedestrian walkway where people could view the river and whether aesthetics would be kept in mind.
Card said the community will be involved in this process, and its up to Soete and others to return to bridge meetings with ideas.
You wont be ignored, he said.
Card also assured Janet Threshman of Callicoon that the eels, shad and other creatures of the river would be protected.
You put it in in the time of year that least adversely affects the species, Card said.
The officials left behind contact information for the public and a promise to return next summer with more concrete information.
Were here, we place the bridge, but were pretty much out of here once construction is done, Gendron said. But you have to live with this.
To weigh in, call Gendron at 607-721-8561 or e-mail her at email@example.com.