Replacing two bridges considered

The twin bridges on Jones Road in the town of Hopkinton, pictured Oct. 2, have been closed due to deterioration to the trusses. St. Lawrence County lawmakers will be voting on the installation of two temporary bridges meant strictly for recreational use. Christopher Lenney/ Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — A disabled, historic pair of Hopkinton bridges were the subject of three county-level resolutions Monday, two of which seek temporary replacement bridges and their potential role in recreation and the local economy.

Deterioration to the trusses of the historic “twin bridges” on Jones Road that cross the west branch of the St. Regis River resulted in their closing by the St. Lawrence County Department of Highways in September, after it was flagged by the New York State Department of Transportation.

During the county Finance Committee meeting Monday, lawmakers voted unanimously to sign a contract with Delta Engineers, Architects and Land Surveyors, DPC, for professional engineering services for the bridges and the state Historical Preservation Office will play a vital role in project approval with the engineering fee not to exceed $60,000, according to the resolution.

All resolutions that came before the committee will make their way to the full board of legislators Dec. 2 for a final vote of approval.

County Department of Highways Director Donald R. Chambers told the board he would have consultants looking at trusses that are historic in nature to replace the ones deteriorating on the historic bridges.

He said the new trusses would likely give the crossing a full legal load.

“Before it was closed, it was posted at three tons,” Mr. Chambers told the board.

The historic steel truss span was already unusable by many vehicles after being rated for the lowest allowable weight limit of three tons, Mr. Chambers said.

“We have made approximately 20 years of promises to reuse these other, heavier historic trusses, so that’s one of the concepts that we would be looking into utilizing to get this crossing back open and also follow up through on our promise to SHPO,” he said. “Going through the permitting process, it is likely to take over a year to do this, so this project will likely not go into construction until at least 2021.”

That causes a problem for recreation.

Jones Road, a seasonal road which sees a very low volume of vehicles, is a major crossing point for snowmobiles in the winter.

Two additional resolutions came before the Finance Committee, one seeking to have two temporary recreation bridges installed, the second seeking to modify the highway department’s 2019 budget as the funding part of the project.

The one-lane bridges would not be for vehicular crossing.

And while both resolutions passed, moving forward to the full board vote, they raised a mix of support and dissention, with Committee Chairman Kevin Acres voting against them, voicing concern about the liability, cost of a temporary structure and about the cost of removal.

According to the first of the resolutions, the St. Lawrence County Department of Highway’s Multi-Use Trail Project will cover the cost of constructing two temporary bridges and the Department of Highways has solicited bids for the construction of the two temporary structures.

“This is not currently part of the Multi-Use Trail, but could be in the future, if we expand through that area,” Mr. Chambers told the board.

Bidding on the projects wouldn’t be open until 3 p.m. Dec. 2 which, as a result, did not allow Mr. Chambers the ability to provide any figures of contractor names to the board.

Those numbers would be available at the Dec. 2 full board meeting.

Legislator Anthony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, a member of the county Recreational and Trails Advisory Board, said the temporary bridges were a good investment and stressed the importance of the location of the two bridges for recreational use, saying it was critical as a recreation navigation point and the local businesses, year round.

The resolution authorizes the county to award the contracts to the unnamed or undetermined contractor for an undetermined cost, which Mr. Acres said he took issue with.

“I’m a little dismayed that the permanent structure can’t go in until 2021 and I understand that we will lose two seasons,” Mr. Acres said. “I’m concerned about the liability, I’m concerned about the cost to a temporary structure and I’m also concerned about the cost of removal, so I will not be supporting this resolution.”

The county Snowmobile Association will gift $5,000 to the highway department toward the cost of the bridge, according to the second resolution seeking the construction of the temporary structures, but Mr. Acres said it mattered not.

“So we don’t know what the bids are and we don’t know what the money is, in my mind, even if it was 100 percent funded, I’d still be against it because of the liability issues and the cost of removal, so I will be voting no.

Rick Perkins, D-Parishville, said by not supporting the temporary bridges, it is telling businesses not to count on the county government.

“We have people, well a person, that’s looking to potentially buy property because of the trail system and the need for opening a convenience store, gas station,” Mr. Perkins said. “If we don’t support this, we’re just telling these people, ‘don’t count on us again.’ Why would we open businesses if you’re not going to help sell it? I’m going to support it. We all talked about increasing our economy, this is the time to act on it.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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