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CALLICOON, NY — At a November 2 public information meeting conducted jointly by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) and its Pennsylvania counterpart, PennDOT, residents learned details of a $9.9 million rehabilitation of Interstate Bridge #7, spanning the Delaware River off lower Main Street in Callicoon. Project work and cost will be borne equally by NY and PA, with an ultimate goal of 20 years of safe bridge service.
Built in 1961, this multi-girder bridge, 966 feet in length, was designed to last 40 to 50 years; at 55, it’s living on borrowed time.
“Why now?” asked residents weary of ongoing interstate bridge repair projects within a 10-mile radius of Bridge #7. The DOT answer: out of a 1-to-7 numerical safety rating (with “1” denoting a failed and dangerous condition), this bridge currently rates only “3.7”—safe, but deteriorating rapidly.
Project construction is set to begin in spring 2018, its completion projected for fall/winter 2019; the permitting process is estimated to take approximately one year. During the construction phase, traffic signals will control alternate one-way traffic flow. No full-traffic closure is anticipated, and a walkway will be maintained while the sidewalk is closed for reconstruction.
In addition to cleaning, painting and repairing bridge piers, abutments and steel girders, the project will replace bridge bearings, concrete deck, sidewalk, curb and bridge railings and eliminate existing drainage grates.
Residents said the upstream side of the bridge offers the most scenic view and is the one most photographed by bridge walkers. Noting that the sidewalk is currently located on the downstream side, they asked if it could be moved to the upstream side. A DOT spokesman said the request would be taken into consideration, although that option is not part of the current design.
During the construction phase, a temporary causeway will be built to facilitate work on bridge underpinnings. Rick Lander, owner of Lander’s River Trips, asked how much the causeway would cause river water levels to rise during flood season. The DOT answer was, “Six inches, maximum. And that would result only from a 100-year superstorm.”
In response to a resident question, DOT confirmed that the project will be put out for bid and awarded to the lowest responsible bidder. That contractor, in turn, may bid out specialty work, awarding it to the lowest responsible bidders. Concerned by how much business the project may generate for local merchants, Lander asked how many workers will be employed daily, on average, during the construction phase. DOT responded that the contractor(s) involved will make that determination, but said a good guesstimate might be 30.
Pressed by residents skeptical of timetable accuracy, a DOT representative produced a schedule of timetables for each of the ongoing and planned interstate bridge projects. However, he noted that only one copy exists and that it has already been revised numerous times since its July 2016 issue.
That led one exasperated resident to shout out, “Can you at least tell us when the Skinners Falls Bridge work will be completed?” The DOT response: “With any luck, tomorrow.”
Public comments and questions can be directed to Michael Retzlaff, P.E., project manager, telephone 607/721-8204; email Michael.Retzlaff@dot.ny.gov; mail: New York State Department of Transportation, Region 9 Design Office, 4 Hawley St., Binghamton, NY 13901-3200.