Pond Eddy Bridge

The Pond Eddy Bridge is a petit truss bridge spanning the Delaware River between Lumberland, New York and Pond Eddy, Pennsylvania, United States. It is accessible from NY 97 in Lumberland and two dead-end local roads, Flagstone Road (State Route 1011) and Rosa Road in Pond Eddy. The bridge was built in 1903 by the Oswego Bridge Company to replace an old suspension bridge that had washed away in a flood earlier in the year. It connected the bluestone quarries in Pennsylvania to New York. The bridge remained intact for many years and, in 1998, was nominated for the U.S. National Register of Historic Places for its engineering significance. It is listed in the New York State Register of Historic Places.

Over the years, the bridge's condition has deteriorated, weakening its retaining strength. In 2005, the town of Narrowsburg passed a resolution calling on the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) to replace the bridge. There has also been a local movement to save the bridge. The bluestone quarries are no longer active, but the bridge still serves as the only access to 26 homes on the initial Pennsylvania side and the only access those residents have to emergency services. Because of the state of the bridge, planning for its replacement began in 1999; full construction to replace the bridge is to start in 2013.

The 1870 suspension bridge

Settlement around Pond Eddy was triggered by the Delaware and Hudson Canal, which was constructed in the 1820s. The Erie Railroad, on the Pennsylvania side, also contributed to the community's growth. After Pond Eddy continued to grow in both states, local officials decided a bridge should be erected to connect the two communities. The new bridge would make it easier to ship bluestone, slate and lumber via the railroad. In 1870, a new bridge was funded with taxpayer's money and the Town of Lumberland in New York helped build the new Pond Eddy Bridge. The new bridge was a wire-rope suspension bridge, similar to those used by John Augustus Roebling. James D. Decker, then the Sullivan County sheriff and former Lumberland town supervisor was hired to supervise the construction of the bridge. He lived so close to the bridge site that it was soon nicknamed "Decker's Bridge". When finished, the new bridge was 521 feet (159 m) long and 12 feet (3.7 m) wide, enough to hold the anticipated traffic. It stood 31 feet (9.4 m) above the water, higher than most bridges on the Delaware.

Historians believe that from the beginning of the bridge's life, it was toll-free for Lumberland residents.Eventually the town leased the bridge out to private individuals, who collected tolls indiscriminately. During times when bridge could not be leased, the town retained control. The tollhouse was later removed and sold. It is now a home. Originally, the settlement of Pond Eddy on the Pennsylvania side was named Flagstone, but changed to its current name upon construction. Both Pond Eddys expanded rapidly. A new railroad station was created in Pond Eddy on the Pennsylvania side. The riverfront location on the New York side had two stores, a Methodist church, a telegraph office, eighteen homes and a new hotel with a restaurant. The hotel had new owners around the time of the bridge and eventually became a large stop for travelers. The Pond Eddy Bridge served the town of Lumberland well in the late 19th century, but the area's prosperity did not last. The canal went out of business in 1898, after years of competition from railroads. The Erie station on the Pennsylvania had no roads to go anywhere, and the community began to decline. Decker died at 77 years old in 1900, having lived long enough to experience the rise and fall of Pond Eddy.

The 1903 petit truss bridge

In 1903, the "floods of the century" struck the Delaware River Valley. Two storms of massive strength, including one from theGreat Lakes converged in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York on October 9, causing massive flooding.The Riverside Hotel received little damage, but homes and businesses were damaged heavily as well as the railroad. The 1870 bridge was destroyed in the storm. Lumberland hired the Oswego Bridge Company to build a replacement for $28,900 ($704,000 in contemporary dollars). The company built the current two-span, one-lane steel structure.

The lumber industries and stone mines on both sides of the river were eventually exhausted and closed. Tourists coming up the river from Port Jervis became the mainstay of the local economy. During the next two decades, seasonal homes and hotels were built in Pond Eddy.

During the 1920s, the Joint Bridge Commission in Pennsylvania and New York started buying up the tolled bridges along the Delaware. The town of Lumberland offered the Pond Eddy bridge to the Commission, but was refused. The bridge, according to the Commission, was already toll-free and adequately maintained. The minimal population on the Pennsylvania side. However, the town was eager to get rid of the responsibility to maintain the two-decade old structure, and would not take no for an answer. Finally in 1926, the Lumberland town supervisor, a friend of Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot, offered the commission the bridge for $1 (Around the same time, it paid $55,000 ($683,000 in 2011 dollars) for the Narrowsburg–Darbytown Bridge). The Joint Commission became the owner of both bridges. Since then the bridge's history has been virtually uneventful, surviving the flooding during the remains of Hurricane Diane in 1955 with little damage. In 2003, the bridge celebrated its centennial.

Replacement plans

In 2005, the community of Narrowsburg, New York, several miles upstream, requested that Pennsylvania Department of Transportation replace the 102-year old structure. It had already had its weight limits reduced. The same year, an engineering firm in Millburn, New Jersey reported replacing the bridge would cost about $6.16 million, while keeping it would cost even more and raise its life expectancy by no more than 15 years. The Upper Delaware Council said that the 8 ton (7.2 tonne) limit on the bridge was inadequate for service trucks and emergency vehicles. The Shohola Township supervisors support maintaining the existing bridge, but the Lumberland Town Board was not convinced that it would be sufficient.

More proposals were made in 2007. Replacing the bridge would cost $7–8 million and take two years to complete. Rehabilitation would require bringing the bridge up to code so it could carry loads of up to 40 tons (36 tonnes). A preservation group formed to oppose a replacement. Its founder compared the bridge to the Dingmans Ferry Bridge on the Pennsylvania–New Jersey border, which carries similar traffic loads. One possibility is to replace the bridge, and move the antique structure elsewhere in Sullivan County, since it is a popular tourist attraction. In June 2008, a compromise was made defining the possibility of a $12 million bridge to replace the 104-year-old deteriorating structure. PennDOT has suggested that they'll let anyone preserve the bridge by taking it somewhere else. However, there has been no response, and plans for the new bridge are scheduled to begin by 2010.

PennDOT has recently begun the Route 1011-Pond Eddy Bridge Replacement Project. Route 1011 is the internal designation for Flagstone Road, one of the two side roads in Pennsylvania along with the bridge. The state has proposed a four-span bridge with three connecting bridge piers, with four side options: replacing the bridge upstream, buying out the 26 residential homes on the Pennsylvania side, rehabilitating the structure to handle weights of 16-18 tons or maintain the bridge in its current form. Depending on which project is chosen, the estimated start would be in 2013, when the structure reaches its 110th year in use. The entire project would cost $8.5-11 million. Opponents of demolishing the bridge hope that that they can find a place to move the bridge, which would cost $500,000, and have the new owners maintain it. On December 17, 2010, PennDOT's District 4 downposted the bridge's weight limit to 4 tons due to deterioration on the bridge. PennDOT will also front $350,000–$500,000 to replace 70 planks on the bridge, which will then restore the weight back to 7 tons. Signage has already adjusted for the demotion by both PennDOT and Sullivan County. Replacement began on April 18, 2011 of 64 stringer beams and on May 25, the project was completed, less than a month ahead of schedule. The 7-ton weight limit was also restored as a result of the completed construction. The cost of the project totaled out to $493,000 (2011 USD).


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