Bridging the gap on Dry Brook

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Editor’s note: The following letter was written to Delaware County DPW Commissioner Wayne Reynolds. The author asked that it be printed here as a letter to the editor.

Commissioner Reynolds;
This communiqué is regarding the Delaware County Bridge located on upper Dry Brook Road in the Town of Middletown. This bridge has come to be known as the Arthur White Bridge. As our office is acutely aware, there are a considerable number of residents located in the Town of Hardenburgh and Town of Middletown residing above the afflicted bridge. These effected communities have lost their ingress egress to Route 28 via Dry Brook Road.

I penned you a letter on September 10th to which you finally responded on September 30th. In this letter I expressed dismay that a temporary stream crossing structure was not constructed for ingress egress for the communities above the crossing. I further warned you of the concerns of the affected residents regarding fire and ambulance response time.

The detour route for these and the Margaretville school bus and Town of Middletown Highway maintenance crews were circuitous and dangerous in winter weather. In your “song and dance” reply you stated that DPW immediately upon notification of failure started to make plans to erect a temporary crossing structure and that DPW did have a bridge in the county yard that could be used as a temporary crossing. Wow, in two (2) short paragraphs after that you stated “Delaware County will not risk the safety of the traveling public by constructing a temporary structure that will not stand the test of another significant event in the Dry Brook Valley.”

In an October 12 Catskill Mountain News article it was stated from “officials.” I assume from your office, that the target date for crossing of emergency vehicles was scheduled for December 24 and open to “all traffic” would be January 14, I guess you meant a “fly over” by a small engine aircraft!
Commencing on October 20 you and myself began exchanging niceties via e-mail. In the September 30 letter you stated that there had been done a “hydrologic and hydraulic” stream assessment as to determine the span needs for the new bridge. October 24 I requested a copy of said report, November 9 I again requested a copy of said report.

I have yet to receive the report nor an explanation of why I wasn’t afforded one. This begs the question, do these reports exist? In the September letter it was also stated that “test borings” were performed to determine actual bridge design. Either the test borings were in error or the engineering firm disregarded the boring information.

I say this as there was a need for additional work to be completed before the center abutment could be poured. Thirty soldier piles were required before construction of the center abutment could be constructed. I’m reminded of the old television series of “Laurel and Hardy.”

I also questioned the need for a 130-foot span bridge at the Arthur White site with a center abutment. Leading to this question was the fact that the George Bridge approximately one mile down stream has a span of only 60 feet and the Erph Road Bridge approximately three miles downstream has a span of only 100 feet. These downstream structures surely have to carry a greater volume of water than the Arthur White structure. I do partially agree with your explanation that these two lower bridges have different floodplain profiles. Having visited the Arthur White site the second day after the flood event I saw no flooding evidence in the flood plain area. The damage seemed to be at the Northwest abutment which was caused by undermine scour.

I have previously stressed the importance of this bridge to the effected upstream residents. This being said I am amassed that any contract awarded for bridge construction in October would not include as much overtime as daylight hours would permit. In my many site visits I saw no full crew overtime at all. Fortunately we have had a very mild fall and early winter which has allowed much more progress than could be normally expected. I did see a concrete glow-out on the Southeast abutment pour. Rumor has it that it was caused by gerry rigged wall ties. I was not impressed!
I will state for public information that the construction crew that is building the bridge had a temporary stream crossing established within a few days after arrival. They used four culvert tubes with gravel fill for a road surface. Delaware County could have done the same thing and used either Jersey barriers or cones for guide rails. I believe “bridge closed travel at your own risk” would have covered your insurance risk.

In closing I must question your decision to play God to the communities above the closed bridge structure. It is extremely fortunate that there has been no loss of life or property of the affected citizens.

It was inferred in your October 25 e-mail that the decision not to erect a temporary stream crossing structure was mostly a personal vendetta against a landowner who questioned your authority regarding construction of the George Road Bridge.

Jerry A. Fairbairn
Town of Hardenburgh