By Dan Hust
POND EDDY While the NYS Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has not dropped out of the controversial plan to replace the Pond Eddy Bridge, its commissioner has issued a strong statement against proceeding further.
That's welcome news to Glenn Pontier, who has advocated for the project to be halted and the current bridge preserved.
"We're beginning to see a reconsideration," he acknowledged this week, shortly after NYSDOT Commissioner Joan McDonald stated that "it is very difficult to justify such a significant investment for such limited use."
McDonald added, "The maintenance and rehabilitation alternatives to maintain the structure at its current capacity need to be fully evaluated. ... Further capital project investment should not be made until the Interstate Bridge Agreement is reviewed and status agreed upon."
Those comments were relayed to PennDOT at the Interstate Bridge Commission meeting this week in Binghamton, said Pontier, since the bridge crosses the Delaware River from New York into Pennsylvania.
McDonald is not advocating for the withdrawal of the $5 million New York has set aside for the replacement project, however, and PennDOT continues to push for taking the existing 109-year-old bridge down. Indeed, the commission approved the funding plan at that meeting.
Thus a group of local concerned citizens, the Friends of the Pond Eddy Bridge, will hold a rally this Saturday at 3 p.m. at the bridge.
"Our work is to continue to build awareness," said Pontier, who's a member of both the Friends and the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway Committee, which shares his concerns.
Since Saturday is Armed Forces Day and the crossing also is called the All Veterans Memorial Bridge, a wreath honoring veterans will be dropped into the Delaware.
Speakers will include supporters of the cause: Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, County Historian John Conway, Catskill Mountainkeeper Executive Director Ramsay Adams, Pond Eddy resident and Friends President Richard Plunz, and Pontier.
The group has also started a website (http://savethebridge.tumblr.com) and mounted an online petition at change.org. The petition to oppose the bridge's demolition has already gathered more than 500 signatures.
Pontier and company intend to keep hammering their point home: that there are better, more beneficial alternatives than replacing the bridge.
And at least on this side of the Delaware, that message is gaining ground.
"There's nobody in New York State advocating the bridge be taken down," he pointed out.