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NY Contractor Mends Deteriorating Route 7 Bridge

Wed October 11, 2000 - Northeast Edition
Mary Gelling Merritt

When New York’s Schoharie Creek swelled to well beyond flood stage in 1987, the raging creek water damaged and took out several spans including a stretch of the New York State Thruway, which crossed the swollen creek. Ten people died in New York State’s most notorious highway catastrophe.

Upstream, the Schoharie’s floodwaters completely covered the road surface of the Route 7 Bridge in the Town of Schoharie in Schoharie County. Despite the flood, the Route 7 Bridge miraculously weathered the storm and wasn’t damaged. Bridge inspectors declared the bridge safe, however as a precaution, they imposed weight restrictions and barred over-sized loads from using the span.

In 1998, the New York State Department of Transportation and the Central Bridge Association initiated a project to address the rapid rate of deterioration of the Route 7 Bridge’s old truss-style structure. It was decided the bridge should be replaced. The project is being done in stages.

First, a one-lane structure controlled by signals was built. The temporary span allows the more than 4,000 motorists who use the Route 7 Bridge everyday to avoid the usual 12-mi. detour, which was implemented whenever maintenance and repairs were being made to the bridge.

The $3.6-million contract to replace the Route 7 Bridge with a new multi-girder structure, which will include two 12-ft. (3.6 m) wide travel lanes and two 6-ft. (1.8 m) wide shoulders, was awarded to Lancaster Development Inc. of Richmondville, NY, in Schoharie County. The project, which includes replacing the bridge with a dual span of concrete deck and steel superstructure and re-working the adjacent Route 7, began last Spring and isn’t expected to be complete until August of 2001.

Mark Gulasso, vice president of Lancaster Development Inc., said it is not unusual for a project of this type to take two construction seasons to complete.

“Steel takes a lot of time to get fabricated and delivered,” Gulasso said. “We put in the order when we received the contract in May. We will install the steel over the Winter and pour the concrete and complete the tie-in road work the following Spring.”

Gulasso said his company is replacing the entire bridge’s substructure using a 100-ton (90 t) lattice boom crane to install permanent and temporary piles and sheeting.

“The height of steel is greater on the newly-designed structure to allow for greater creek flow to prevent damage to this bridge,” explained Gulasso.

Gulasso said the new steel being used in the new bridge is a “weathering steel.” He said the steel is designed to rust to a point and then stop. The benefits are lower maintenance needs. The bridge will never have to be re-painted and the risk of corrosion is significantly diminished. Gulasso said the new bridge’s life expectancy should exceed 50 years.

Gulasso said the surrounding road construction would improve the safety along Route 7 by improving the sight distance at Route 7’s intersection with Route 30A.

“We are reconstructing about a mile of highway, straightening out curves and replacing storm sewers,” Gulasso said. The company plans to use excavators, dozers and loaders to do the job.

“I am pleased to see the state take another step toward a safer Route 7,” New York State Senator James L. Seward said. “This project, in the works for years and the subject of local meetings that I attended, was a result of a local cooperative effort and will serve businesses and residents by continuing traffic during construction. Awarding this contract is good news for the Town of Schoharie and local motorists.”

Lancaster Development Inc. just merged its operation to one location just off Interstate 88. Founded in 1947, Lancaster Development Inc. is a family-owned and operated company which specializes in asphalt paving, roadway drainage systems, and edge drain and under drain trenching systems.

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