Stuyvesant Falls bridge faces uncertain fate

STUYVESANT–When the Town Board met last month, the decaying Stuyvesant Falls bridge over Kinderhook Creek was on the agenda again. And this week Dean Knox, engineering director of Columbia County DPW Engineering Division, said the county would soon place a 12-ton weight restriction on the bridge.

The wrought iron bridge was built in 1899 by the Berlin Iron Bridge company, a Connecticut firm known for its ornate spans. The original Stuyvesant Falls bridge had a wooden deck, which was suitable for the vehicles of the day. But as automobiles became more popular and heavier, the wooden deck was replaced with a metal one in 1939.

The bridge served the town until 1990, when it was closed due to severe deterioration. In order to fix the problems, the Town of Stuyvesant worked with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to design a solution. That process led to the addition of steel arches inside the truss structure so the bridge could hold more weight but the historic nature of the bridge would not be compromised. Now both the original truss structure from 1899 original bridge and the steel arches from the 1995 renovation are in use but need extensive repairs.

The 1899 structure is starting to disintegrate. The paint has chipped away on the structure, exposing the metal to the elements, which has caused widespread rusting. Also, the structure is being taxed by heavy vehicles like school buses, fire trucks and agricultural equipment.

Because of this, the state Department of Transportation has issued a “yellow flag” for the bridge, meaning that deficiencies were found in the bridge and should be fixed. If the problems are not addressed, the DOT could issue a “red flag” status for the bridge, which means that a plan to correct the deficiencies must be submitted to the department within 30 days or the will close the bridge. For this reason, an engineering study of the bridge recommended and the county has agreed on a 12-ton weight limit for traffic on the bridge.

Though the weight limit may reduce the rate of deterioration, it also prohibits use of the bridge by most emergency vehicles, increasing response times in some parts of town. The road that crosses the bridge is County Route 25A.

This spring the board received copies of the engineering report on the bridge prepared by Ryan-

Biggs Associates, P.C. for the county DPW. The firm said its inspection revealed that bridge superstructure is in “poor condition.”

The report that examines a variety of options, although several possibilities were found to be unacceptable, including the option of doing nothing.

One approach would target the most critical structural deficiencies in the bridge, but not the less urgent problems; it also calls for painting the bridge. While this is a less expensive approach, it is only a temporary fix and could lead to further problems in the near future.

Another option targets all deficiencies. That would extend the life of the bridge but it carries a much higher cost. Still other options include demolishing the bridge and replacing it with a modern span. While this might add another lane to the bridge, which currently is one-lane, it would be the expensive and would destroy the historic parts of the bridge. The report notes that the bridge is in Stuyvesant Falls Mill District, “which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.”

The estimated costs in the report range from a minimum of $3.1 million for “major repairs and painting” to $7.3 million for a new bridge. A new bridge would have lower maintenance costs over the next decade.

Local officials believe that the responsibility for funding any of these options would fall on local taxpayers because it would take too long to acquire funds from the state or the federal government. But if the bridge is not fixed, it may have to be closed.

 

 

 

 

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