Brian Ponticello is just one person who lives on River Street in Homer who has to use the Albany Street bridge or another route to get to the other side of the Homer since the Pine Street bridge was closed last year.
Now, Ponticello, a firefighter with the Homer Fire Department, can use the Pine Street bridge soon to cross the Tioughnioga River and get to and from his house, the fire station and other parts of Homer more easily, said Homer Fire Chief Mahlon Irish Jr.
“I think that’s going to be an improvement for him,” he said.
Pine Street bridge, along with Wall Street bridge were red-flagged for structural issues by the state last year and closed. The two bridges are a block apart and cross the West Branch of the Tioughnioga River. With the two bridges closed it left one bridge — the Albany Street bridge — in the village for residents and emergency vehicles to use to get across the river.
Town Supervisor Fred Forbes said work on the Pine Street bridge began May 30 after the town board awarded Economy Pavement a $99,599 contract in April. The bid was an alternative to its original $89,890 and included — upon approval by the state Department of Environmental Conservation — stone in front of a portion of the bridge. Forbes said Wednesday the DEC allowed the stone to be put in with a stipulation the company not let the water get too high and drain while putting the stones in.
However, Forbes said Wednesday that if it doesn’t stop raining he “doubts they’ll be able to do it.” The forecast shows the weekend will be nice, but showers are predicted for Monday and Tuesday before clearing up again Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service.
Forbes also told board members Wednesday night the company had about 8 feet of the bridge deck in place.
“I think it’s coming along real fast,” Forbes said. “If rain does not get in the way, I would project the bridge would be open by July 1.”
Economy Paving is removing and replacing the nail laminated wood deck and steel stringers. The company will fill both abutment faces with heavy stone.
The project would improve the bridge from a 3-ton to 5-ton capacity. That’s enough capacity to allow an ambulance, about 5 tons, but not a delivery truck, which would be about 6 tons, according to the state Department of Transportation. It also would not be enough for a loaded school bus, 17 tons. The fire department also wouldn’t be able to use the bridge for any of its larger trucks. Irish said all the larger trucks the department uses weigh more than 5 tons.
If the Albany Street bridge becomes inaccessible, larger emergency response vehicles face a six-mile trip north or south to cross the Tioughnioga River.
However, Irish said it will still help because it means a second bridge in town can be used by pedestrians, easing some of the use at the Albany Street bridge.
Forbes said he isn’t happy at the possibility of increased traffic in the River Street neighborhood and would’ve rather had the Wall Street bridge get funding to be repaired because then it could’ve accommodated emergency vehicles.
The town wanted to turn the Wall Street bridge into a two-lane bridge, but the $860,000 project was not selected to receive state funding last year. One of Forbes’ concerns with having the Pine Street bridge fixed is whether it would give the town a weaker chance of receiving funding for the Wall Street bridge, which is in close proximity to two other bridges. Without the funding it is likely that the Wall Street bridge won’t be replaced for around three to four years.