HELENA — The Depot Street bridge was scheduled to be replaced next year if funding was available. But its closure has come earlier than expected.
The bridge was shut down at about 4 p.m. Monday after it was deemed unsafe during a state inspection.
“They couldn’t keep it open any more,” Brasher Supervisor Mark A. Peets said.
St. Lawrence County Highway Superintendent Donald R. Chambers said the bridge was issued a structural flag and listed as “prompt action is required.”
“We acted immediately and closed the structure immediately,” he said. “That structure has some issues that we need to address. We wouldn’t be doing that unless it was imperative that we do it.”
The bridge was scheduled to be replaced in 2021 if state funding was available. The heavily traveled 160-foot overhead metal span is located on Depot Street and crosses the Deer River. It was built in the 1930s and is the only crossing within Helena, a hamlet in the northeast corner of the town of Brasher.
Mr. Chambers said it’s difficult to determine how long the bridge would remain closed.
“The funding is not in place at this point. However, I plan to have some additional inspections with the New York state Department of Transportation shortly to see if we can get the structure moved up on the list for this funding,” he said.
“We’ve been anticipating this situation. We were hoping that funding would be in place for construction. We were hoping to keep the Depot Street bridge open for another year or so. But it’s not in the cards. We have to be aware of the public safety and, of course, I have to do what I have to do to ensure public safety,” he said
A sidewalk on the bridge has also been closed.
“When we have to close a structure, the entire structure gets closed. There’s no differentiation between pedestrian traffic and vehicle traffic,” Mr. Chambers said.
In addition to the bridge closure, the St. Lawrence County Highway Department will be closing a portion of County Route 53, one of the access points to Helena, to replace a large culvert between the Brasher highway garage and Depot Street. The closure is scheduled to run from mid-August to mid-October.
A public information meeting had been held in March to discuss the replacement of the bridge, which could have started in May 2021 if funds were available and be wrapped up by October 2021. Preliminary work has been done to prepare for when funds become available.
Plans had been drawn up for off-site detours of approximately 24 miles, using County Route 53, County Route 38, Route 420, County Route 37, County Route 46, Route 37C and Depot Street. Officials anticipated that local traffic would use Quinell Road, Smith Road and Main Street.
The Helena Volunteer Fire Department had planned to have equipment available at its station, as well as the town of Brasher’s former highway garage across the bridge. They have already moved some equipment, and also notified neighboring departments of the possible need for mutual aid.
“Obviously the town will make space available for the needed equipment,” Mr. Peets said.
The anticipated cost of the bridge replacement is $3.5 million. The project is a joint effort of the St. Lawrence County Highway Department, state Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.