February 14, 2005

Historic bridge on verge of collapse

By Michelle J. Lee
Poughkeepsie Journal

BEACON -- The historic Tioronda Bridge is falling down.

And although the bridge is slated to be replaced, the bigger question for city officials is when to remove it.

Built in 1872, the bridge is on the National Register of Historic Places and one of the few remaining bridges with bowstring arches. It was closed in the 1980s for safety reasons and officials said the structure is beyond repair.

For five years, the city and engineering firm Clough, Harbour and Associates have been working on a plan to design a new bridge on the present site.

Compounding the problem is the recent collapse of one of two stone piers that supports the bridge, said Tony Papile, the new project manager appointed last fall by the firm.

The support has been crumbling over the years. But the decay got so bad this year it created a "void" on one side.

Papile said the pier would need to be encased in concrete for stabilization and recommended the city dismantle and store the bowstring arches and wooden bridge deck for future use.

Second opinion agreed

A second evaluation done in December by Modjeski and Masters, a Poughkeepsie engineering company, confirmed the problem.

Barney Martin, the vice president of Modjeski and Masters, noted the bridge arches no longer are connected to the pier.

While not an immediate threat, Martin said it could cause complications in the future and the project should move forward.

"It's one of those things you don't want to delay. You always want to err on the side of caution," he said.

The city council ultimately will decide if it should remove the bridge now or wait until the new design is completed, city Administrator Joseph Braun said.

The design is still being finalized along with additional environmental studies and a new traffic study, Papile said. He hopes to hold a public hearing in spring and to finish the studies by fall.

Work could begin in '06

Construction on the new bridge is proposed to begin in late 2006 and the project would be finished in 2007, Braun said.

While the total cost is being tabulated, construction is estimated around $3 million for bridge and road work. The bridge project would be 95 percent reimbursed by federal and state funds, Braun said. The city will pay $650,000 to Clough, Harbour and Associates.

If the council decides to remove the bridge before plans are approved, Beacon would not be reimbursed, Braun said. One estimated cost of the job is $50,000.

"We're trying to see if we can squeeze another four or five months [or] they're going to have to come up with the money," Braun said.

Braun said he was frustrated with the long time it is taking for Clough, Harbour and Associates to do the work and asked them to "speed up the process."

Papile said the work is moving slowly because the historic project requires many studies to follow state and federal requirements.

"We're near the tail end of that process," he said.

Copyright 2005, Poughkeepsie Journal. Reprinted with Permission.
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