The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

The Student News Site of Canalside Chronicles

Canalside Chronicles

A second chance
May 7, 2024

Bridging Brockport together

By Drew Miller and Ashton Townsend

The recent collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore has heightened concerns about the safety of bridges across the country. In a region where canal bridges are a part of the history of Western N.Y., residents are even more mindful about bridge safety. In 2021, a community committee was formed in Brockport to undergo the repairing for the Brockport lift bridge on Main Street.

When a bridge is no longer stable, there are two options. 1) replace the bridge or 2) renovate the bridge. The first step in deciding of the future of a bridge is to complete a detailed inspection of the bridge and determine all the work needed to rehabilitate it to good condition.

Civil engineer, Brian Miller has designed many of the bridges in Rochester, including restoring the bridge on Park Avenue in Brockport over 20 years ago with his previous firm. Miller who is now the Senior Vice President of the engineering firm, Labella Associates, speaks on what goes into the decision process on the future of a bridge.

A sign placed next to the Park Avenue lift bridge that goes through the bridge’s history in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Drew Miller)

“If rehabilitating is 80% or more of the cost to replace then you replace the bridge, if the cost to rehabilitate is between 50%-80% the cost to replace, then we look at other factors. Such as future maintenance cost, if it’s a non-redundant structure, or if the bridge width is not at current standards. Generally, if the cost to rehabilitate a bridge is less than 50% of the cost to replace it, then the bridge is rehabilitated,” said Miller.

The condition of the bridge on Main Street came as a surprise to the mayor of the village of Brockport, Margaret Blackman.

“They [department of transportation] do routine inspections of the bridge and we were kind of surprised that it was in as bad shape as it was. Apparently, the last time it was repaired was in 1991-92 when it was closed for almost an entire year and they replaced a bunch of stuff on it then. At the time, I think the engineer said it was in very good shape and would last another 60 years but it didn’t quite make it,” said Blackman

The Erie Canal is considered a historic landmark and that includes the bridges that go across the canal. If the bridge is an historic landmark, then every effort is made to save it.

“Historic bridges are rehabilitated even if the cost to do so is greater than the cost to replace.  Sometimes these historic bridges are in such bad shape that they can’t be rehabilitated, in that case the replacement bridge is usually designed to look like the historic bridge,” said Miller.

Miller believes that the lift bridge on Main Street is a historical landmark to the village of Brockport and the Erie Canal.

“The Brockport bridge is historic and part of the historic Erie Canal as such it should remain a lift bridge,” said Miller, “Also to make it a fixed bridge it would need to raise considerably causing the approaches to the bridge to be significantly lengthened, greatly impacting the adjacent businesses and property owners and likely causing significant environmental impacts.”

The lift bridge trusses waiting to be reassembled into a bridge in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Drew Miller)

Even though the new bridge will look just like the old one, almost all of the materials are going to be new except for one thing.

“Almost everything is new, the thing that is not new are the trusses. Basically everything is going to be new, but it is going to look just like the old bridge,” said Blackman.

More efforts continue to be made to ensure that the bridges in Brockport are safe and easy for pedestrians to walk and drive over them. This includes the Park Avenue bridge that had some restorations done just last year.

The Park Avenue lift bridge in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Drew Miller)

As soon as the bridge on Main Street is finished with construction, the next restoration project will begin on the Smith Street bridge.

“The Smith Street bridge is also going to be upgraded after the Main Street bridge opens. We have a grant for $1.2 million to do pedestrian and cyclist upgrades to the bridge to make it more pedestrian friendly and I think that will be great,” said Blackman.

The final project that will be done in Brockport is the pedestrian walkway. This project was announced in 2020 when Brockport was chosen to be apart of the reimagine the canals initiative.

“We were very happy to be selected for that, that was a Governor Cuomo project where he selected several places for different reimagine the canal bridges and we got selected for the pedestrian bridge,” said Blackman. “That is supposed to be completed in 2025, originally it was 2024 but now it is 2025. Work is going to start when the weather gets better and that is going to be something that will be paid by the New York power authority.”

A rendering of the Brockport Pedestrian Walkway in Brockport, NY (Canalside Chronicles/Bridging Brockport)

Engineer and bridge designer for Labella Associates, Wayne Frye thinks this reimagine the canals initiative is a good idea. Not only for the residents who live on the canal, but also as an incentive to come live near and around the canal.  

“I think it’s a good idea because I think it turns the canal into more of a waterfront. People are very interested in waterfront property and we have that all across New York. If the canal becomes more attractive through this initiative, then there might be more people wanting to move closer to these areas,” said Frye.

Concerns about the safety of bridges have been heightened all across the United States. Brockport has taken action to ensure that its bridges are safe, their history is preserved and remain accessible to the community.

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