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Pond Eddy bridge debated at UDC

February 8, 2012

Agreeing to change the start time of the Upper Delaware Council’s monthly meeting from 7:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. came easily with a unanimous vote from members present at the February 2 meeting in Narrowsburg. Approving a comment letter on the Pond Eddy bridge project, however, brought yet another lengthy discussion after which the UDC sent the letter back to committee for revision.

Currently at issue is the design of the bridge, which crosses the Delaware River connecting Pond Eddy, NY to Pond Eddy, PA and is listed on the National, New York and Pennsylvania Historic Landmark Registers.

Built in 1905, the bridge provides the only means in or out of the small Pennsylvania community of approximately 24 properties and 12 full-time families. Repair or replacement of the structure has been a matter of impassioned debate for many years as issues of safety, cost and character are argued by residents, municipal officials, state and federal agencies and other interested parties.

A decision to finally replace the bridge with a modern structure is again being met with requests for reconsideration. Due to deterioration, the original weight limit of 18 tons has been reduced to seven tons, with PennDOT planning a 30-foot-wide bridge capable of holding 40 tons and similar to the bridge connecting the communities of Shohola, PA and Barryville, NY. The $12 million cost of the new bridge would be shared by both states ($4 million each) and the federal government.

But while a recent meeting of the Upper Delaware Scenic Byway committee resulted in a resolution asking that the decision to replace the bridge be reconsidered in favor of restoring the current Petit Truss bridge to a carrying capacity closer to 20 tons, members of the UDC heard lengthy discussion that led to rejection of a draft letter on the matter.

UDC chair Nadia Rajsz began by saying, “No one wants to be an obstructionist to stop the bridge from being built, but the cost is excessive. I question the size and the amount of money that New York has to expend in today’s disastrous financial times.”

George J. Fluhr Sr. then read a prepared statement chiding the UDC. “After Shohola Township has had the support of the council on this item for over 20 years, both I and the township supervisors were surprised and shocked that this letter had been proposed,” he read. “As the letter itself says, the UDC does not wish to cause any further delays or escalation of the costs. Yet, this letter would do exactly that.”

Rajsz responded, “Is there a way to tone down the size of the bridge so that it is more fitting to the rural character of the river valley?”