By John Mason – Friday, February 6, 2015 12:00 am
HUDSON — The Ferry Street Bridge had an inspection Thursday, five months after the Common Council allocated $30,000 for an engineering study. In biting cold and wind, surveyors from Creighton Manning Engineering, of Albany, and inspectors contracted to the New York State Department of Transportation took a close look at the bridge and its environs.
The bridge is one of just two access routes to Hudson’s South Bay waterfront.
Over the last five years, the DOT has downgraded the bridge’s capacity by 80 percent in two decisions: In 2010, its capacity was lowered from 15 tons to 5 tons, and in 2013 it dropped from 5 tons to 3.
After that, Mayor William H. Hallenbeck Jr. closed the road leading up to and over the bridge until another DOT inspection had been done. He didn’t close the bridge because it wasn’t clear who owned it, the city, CSX or Amtrak.
The annual DOT inspection has been due for several months, but had to wait until the railroad company was able to provide personnel to ensure safety on the tracks.
Although it was said they were waiting for flaggers, that was railroad jargon for people who have control over tracks and the ability to close them and deliver trains to other tracks, dealing with radios and talking to control rooms and switchmen, Perry said. In this case, an Amtrak track foreman was controlling the tracks from a pickup truck parked a few yards from the bridge.
Around noon, a DOT contractor in a cherry picker was examining the underside of the bridge, taking photographs and, rapping on the steel beams with a clawhammer, watching pieces crumble and fall to the tracks.
While the wooden decking was maintained and replaced by CSX with some regularity, Perry said, and the abutments are typically in good shape, the steel superstructure has problems.
“It’s not just the beams, it’s the truss on top,” he said. “Those have issues, too. The steel is degraded; it’s over 100 years old.”
Meanwhile, two Creighton Manning employees were surveying the area just east of the bridge.
“Their role was to survey the existing areas and approaches and get the elevations and what dimensions a replacement bridge would require,” Perry said. “They’ll determine the clearance levels, come up with options for what kinds of bridges might be feasible, and get the hard budgetary numbers for what the finished product would cost. The primary goal is a quantifiable document to include as part of a grant application to get the money to repair the bridge.”
He said their report would take about 60 days.
The engineers will do a technical assessment and send their report to the DOT, Perry said. The DOT will use the report in making its final report and any changes in the bridge capacity requirements, and send it to the city.
Hallenbeck Jr. said it will take at least two weeks before the results from the DOT are available.
“I closed it for safety purposes,” he said. “If the inspection comes back in the affirmative, that any 3-ton vehicle can go over the bridge, I would reopen it. If they say you’re under, the bridge will remain closed.”
Common Council President Don Moore welcomed the news of the inspection.
“Inspecting the bridge is a critical step in a final assessment of its structural integrity and of the city’s ability to create an engineering plan to replace it,” he said in an email. “I am very grateful for the help of Assemblywoman (Didi) Barrett and Sen. (Charles) Schumer (D-NY) in obtaining the Amtrak assistance for the inspection.”
Alderman Nick Haddad, D-1st Ward, in whose ward the bridge lies, said he was delighted the inspection was underway.
“The irony here is that so many administrations kicked the can down the road,” he said. “We’ve made overtures to create a capital fund to allow us in some way to prepare for the inevitable cost of repairing the bridge.”
He said the reason this was happening was that the Common Council pushed this issue back in October.
To reach reporter John Mason, call 518-828-1616, ext. 2500, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.