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Luck Bros. Widens NY’s Route 37, Spruces Up Stonewalls

Tue August 27, 2002 - Northeast Edition
Mary S. Yamin-Garone

Motorists traveling on Route 37 in Saint Lawrence County, NY, now can enjoy a safer, smoother ride because of work recently completed on this important connector linking the north country with Canada.

The $12.2-million project spanned 15 mi. (24.1 km), beginning at the Morristown town line and preceding north to the city of Ogdensburg. Finished in September 2001, the work involved rehabilitating and widening the roadway and reconstructing a portion of it to improve highway alignment.

“The road was widened from a 10-ft. mainline with 4-ft. shoulders to a 12-ft. mainline with 8-ft. shoulders,” said Ted Luck, president of Luck Brothers Inc., in northern New York State, whose company performed the work. “The safety of the road also was improved by straightening some of the problem curves and removing some of the knobs — or high points — to increase sight visibility. Low points were filled in to make it more level. Now, instead of going up and down, the road is straight.”

In addition, new curbing was installed and storm drainage, catch basins, roadside ditches and culverts were upgraded. The cross culverts across the road also were replaced for the entire length of the project.

Aesthetics Addressed

A distinctive element of the Route 37 travel corridor is the presence of stonewalls on many of the individual properties abutting the highway. Sensitive to the needs of property owners and motorists, the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) designed the project so that improvement would cause minimal disruption to the stonewalls lining that segment of the Seaway Trail.

“The property owners who had stonewalls wanted to keep them,” Luck said, “so when we widened the road they [the walls] had to be moved back. Over 3,000 ft. of stonewall had to be relocated. Moving those walls was not only time consuming, but also a labor-intensive part of the job.”

“All of the relocation work was performed by hand by a local craftsman, a subcontractor on the project, and one laborer,” said Ken Bibbins, NYSDOT’s engineer-in-charge of the project. “The two of them took down the existing wall and put it back together with guidance from the property owners. The walls ranged in length from 150 to 300 ft., covering the entire frontage of a piece of property. Because it was dry-laid stonewall, there was no mortar involved. He [the craftsman] was a true artisan. He used a stone hatchet and a sledgehammer to achieve the shape that would work best.”

Rock Presents


It wasn’t only the rocks in the stonewalls that made this project challenging. Rock also presented a challenge for Luck Brothers in that everything was sitting on rock just under the surface — more than 28,775 cu. yds. (22,000 cu m). The company had done jobs involving rock before; just not that much.

“Because the work involved a lot of blasting with bulldozers, the rock did pose a problem for us,” Luck explained, “We had to use a DR [bull]dozer to rip a great deal of it, rather than blasting it. We used the big thumb on the back end of the machine to tear up the rock.”

Safety Improved for Recreationists

To improve safety in that area, NYSDOT partnered with the state’s office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to construct a pedestrian underpass under Route 37. The underpass serves golfers, cross country skiers and visitors to the Saint Lawrence State Park, approximately 4 mi. south of Ogdensburg.

“There were two at-grade crossings where golfers would cross the state highway. We eliminated one and increased sight distance for the roadway by installing a pre-cast culvert that worked as a golf cart underpass,” explained Bibbins. “Now there’s one less chance for cars and golfers to have a conflict.”

Luck Brothers Inc. is a general contracting firm specializing in heavy highway and bridge construction. According to the company, it has one of the largest equipment fleets in northern New York, ranging from excavators, bulldozers, loaders and cranes to heavy material haulers.

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