Work Speeds Ahead on Replacing Century-Old Bridges With Tunnel

Historic Bridge Replaced Over the Erie Canal in Perinton

Tue November 18, 2003 - Northeast Edition
Mary Reed

An historic bridge over the Erie Canal in western New York State has been replaced as part of a cooperative project between county and state in Perinton, Monroe County.

The job involves both bridge replacements and highway reconstruction. The state-owned facilities involved are a five-span bridge across the Erie Canal, the CSX Chicago railroad line and State Route 31F at the northerly edge of the job, while the county-owned properties are Lyndon Road and the short-span precast concrete bridge over Thomas Creek, which lies within the project limits.

“The original intent of the project when it was scoped in 1996 was to replace the deteriorated bridges across the canal and the railroad tracks, which had been closed to traffic since 1992,” said Karen Cox, project manager for the Monroe County Department of Transportation (Monroe County DOT).

“When it became clear that Lyndon Road in the vicinity of the project would become a major connector to the southerly part of Monroe County, the highway reconstruction work was added to the project.”

Funding for the job comes from three sources, Cox noted. “Costs are being split between Highway and Bridge Replacement and Rehabilitation (HBRR) funds, which paid for the design and construction of the bridge over the CSX Railroad and the county-owned precast concrete bridge; State Dedicated Funds (SDF), which will pay for the design and construction of the remainder of the bridge spans as well as the state-owned highway within the project limits; and the Surface Transportation Program Flexible Fund (STP-Flex), which paid for the design and construction of Lyndon Road within the project limits.”

Design costs were $1.374 million with the construction price tag currently at $6.12 million. Joseph C. Lu Engineering & Land Surveying of Penfield, NY, was responsible for wetland and flood plain delineation and water quality issues as well as preliminary and final design for the Lyndon Road bridge over Thomas Creek as subconsultant to Erdman Anthony Associates, the Rochester, NY-based company responsible for the design of the main bridge structure and the highway improvements.

Construction History

The majority of the project was completed in the first year of the job. During that time, Lyndon Road and State Route 31E were fully reconstructed within the project limits and the existing bridge over Thomas Creek removed and replaced. The bridge over the Erie Canal and the CSX railroad line was demolished in January 2001 and substructures for the new bridges were completed during the winter and early spring of that year.

During the summer of 2001, steel for the non-truss spans of the new bridges was erected, while in late summer that year the concrete decks on the non-truss spans were completed. The truss span itself was erected in late December 2001.

“A Lima 700 HC 80-ton and Link-Belt HC238 140-ton cranes were used to erect bridge girders and assemble the truss bridge over the canal,” noted John Lawlor, EIC for the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT).

“A pile driving rig consisting of a Link-Belt 1008B fitted with a Vulcan 06 hammer was used to install steel bearing piles at all the bridge piers,” he added, “as well as the abutment footings for the short span precast concrete structure.”

Unusual Feature

One unusual feature of the project is the design of the “Big Bridge,” as the crews affectionately dubbed the truss span over the Erie Canal. Monroe County DOT’s Cox explained the reason behind this.

“When the project was scoped in early 1996, the entire bridge was to have been steel beams with concrete decks. However, during preliminary design for the project, the Erie Canal was designated a Historic Landmark and as a result of this, the State Historic Preservation Office [SHPO] requested that the existing truss over the canal be replaced in kind.”

This request led to several design alternatives, including using the original trusses as a facade on a conventional bridge.

“Utilizing the original bridge as a pedestrian bridge and constructing a new bridge alongside it was also considered,” Cox mentioned. “Finally, however, it was decided that the most feasible alternative would be construction of a new truss span that would carry two travel lanes, shoulders and sidewalks.” Stephen L. Gauthier, associate and structural engineer with Erdman Anthony, shed further light on the dilemma.

“The existing one-lane, five-span bridge was constructed in 1911, and consists of two concrete rigid frames with spans approximately 6.1 meters, a 60.35 meter long historically significant thru-truss span over the canal, and two 33.5 meter pony truss spans. However,” Gauthier added, “due to severe corrosion, the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic in 1993. Because of this, the narrowness of the current structure, and several other non-standard highway features, it was decided that the cost-effective solution was to replace it.”

Consequently, for aesthetic reasons mandated by the historical character of the Erie Canal system and the bridge itself, a Curved Chord Parker thru truss was incorporated into the design.

At 198.5 ft. (60.5 m) long, it is a five span superstructure incorporating two at 108.3-ft. (33 m) long, curved steel multi-girder spans, the aforementioned Curved Chord Parker thru truss over the canal and two 108.3 ft. (33 m) haunched steel multi-girder spans.

Slightly further north, the bridge carrying Lyndon Road over Thomas Creek was replaced by a 29.5-ft. (9 m) precast three-sided structure supported by steel pile foundations and precast wing walls on spread footings.

The project was let in August 2000 and the bridge placed in March/April of 2001. Contractor for the job was Nory Construction Company Inc., of Rochester, NY, with bridge components supplied by Lakelands Concrete Products, headquartered in Lima. NY.

One or two problems had to be resolved during the construction of the bridge, a spokesman for Nory Construction recalled.

During foundation excavation, a large amount of debris was uncovered from an adjacent closed landfill whose limits impinged upon the foundation area. In addition, because access to nearby Little League fields had to remain open between April and November, the company had a narrow window in which to remove and replace the bridge.

No major problems were encountered with the project, which also included installation of a new traffic signal at the intersection of State Route 31F and Lyndon Road.

Indeed, Monroe County DOT’s Cox praised the “extreme amount of cooperation” between the department and various municipalities and organizations involved with the project.

“At any one time,” she said, “our engineer in charge has had to balance the interests of the contractor, New York State, Monroe County, the Town of Perinton, CSX Railroad, various utility companies, the Army Corps of Engineers, the New York State Department of Conservation and residents and businesses within the project limits.

“More often than not, given a project of this magnitude and this many interests, this type of coordination can become a nightmare. We have not experienced that on this project.”

The canal bridge was opened on 29 August 2002. with a procession across the new structure. Participants included a marching band, the nearby hockey rink’s Zamboni, which had been waiting to cross for almost a decade, having sat on the canal’s northern side ever since the original bridge was closed, service vehicles such as an ambulance and fire truck, and one or two antique cars. The Perinton Blades Youth Hockey Hockey Team, wearing team jerseys and traveling by in-line skate, also turned out en masse to join the celebration.

Pedestrian Bridge

Now To Be Built

The second part of the Lyndon Road project consists of construction of a pedestrian bridge leading from the canal truss to the Erie Canal Trail which runs below the new bridge. The top portion of this bridge will be a prefabricated truss and the lower portion a more conventional steel beam-concrete deck type.

“When we has the public hearing for the Lindon Road project four years ago,” Cox recalled, “many people who attended expressed a desire for such a structure, since the new canal bridge was going to encourage pedestrian traffic.

“There was a concern that people would access the canal trail by walking across the CSX mainline tracks, which is a very dangerous move at times since approximately 70 trains a day go by and they are traveling about 70 mph.

“We pursued including the pedestrian bridge with the original project,” she went on, “but when it became clear that ownership issues and coordination with the State Historic Preservation Office and CSX were going to slow the main bridge project down, we broke out the pedestrian ramp as a separate project. It took about three years to work out all of the issues, easements, permits, etc., but we are in the home stretch now.”

The pedestrian bridge job is scheduled to be let in November, with construction starting in January 2004.

“The engineer’s estimate for the pedestrian bridge is $1.04 million,” Cox noted. “Funding will be split between federal 80 percent and 15 percent state, with 5 percent contributed by the county.

“The pedestrian bridge will be not be owned by NYSDOT or the county, but rather by the NYS Canal Corporation. The county agreed to facilitate design and construction since we were familiar with all of the issues and all of the main players,” Cox said, adding that the expected completion date is August 2004.

Public Expresses Appreciation

Some months before the Erie Canal bridge was completed, Monroe County DOT’s Cox mentioned she thought drivers would enjoy using the new canal bridge.

The closure of the original bridge in 1992 had meant a five-mile detour, as well as presenting difficulties for the drivers of school buses and emergency vehicles.

This prediction turned out to be correct. In fact, she reported recently, “since the completion of the main project, many of the public that were unhappy about the bridge opening have written to us to compliment us on the project and have indicated that having the bridge open is saving them a lot of time when they want to get around town.”