Replacement of the Trapps Bridge spanning Route 44/55 in Gardiner is on track for around the beginning of April 2017, according to Emily Hague, director of land protection and stewardship at the Mohonk Preserve. The project “should take about 12 to 16 weeks to completion,” she told Gardiner’s town board.
Built in 1930, the original steel bridge links the Trapps Carriage Road, which heads south parallel with the Shawangunk ridgeline toward Millbrook Mountain, with the more northerly Overcliff/Undercliff loop, where most of the Mohink Preserve’s rock-climbing pitches are located. Both routes are popular with hikers, cyclists and cross-country skiers as well as climbers. The West Trapps Connector Trail leading from the Preserve’s West Trapps parking lot ends at a flight of rough stone steps leading to the northern end of the Trapps Bridge.
“The good news with this is that there will only be partial road closure for the duration of the project,” Hague said. “Route 44/55 will be down to one lane, with a traffic signal .… It will be mostly automatic.”
The finished product promises to make the road crossing much safer for both vehicles and pedestrians. The replacement bridge, whose design plans are currently awaiting final approval from Region 8 of the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), will “greatly increase visibility,” Hague said.
The old bridge is roughly 80 feet long and set at an oblique angle across 44/55. The new one will be 120 feet in length and set “closer to perpendicular.” This will enable excavation of more gradual ramps leading up to the carriage roads on both sides of the crossing, making the trail network node much more handicapped-accessible.
On the south side, two existing handicapped parking spaces will be rotated 90 degrees and made ADA-complaint. “The driveway approach will be widened and split,” Hague said, with the slope of the pedestrian ramp flattened from the existing 15-degree grade to five degrees.
The existing stone steps on the north side, which become treacherous to skiers and hikers when coated with ice in winter, will be eliminated entirely, replaced by a ramp merging into the West Trapps Connector Trail. “It’ll be so much easier for cyclists as well. That’s an awkward carry point.”
The replacement bridge will be a prefabricated span of steel stringers and handrails with a pre-weathered, rust-colored finish and concrete decking. “It’ll probably blend in with the surroundings much better,” noted Hague. “It’s on a more pedestrian scale.” The new bridge will still be able to accommodate park ranger trucks and emergency vehicles, however.
The decision to replace the old bridge came after nearly a decade’s worth of debate by the Mohonk Preserve over whether to try to repair it, following a 2005 study in which the DOT red-flagged structural issues with the abutments. The bridge span itself is “not a significant hazard,” she said, “but there are some issues.” The new design incorporates “long-lasting, stable footings” to replace the deteriorated 86-year-old stone abutments.
Seed funding for the project came from a major federal T-21 grant funneled through the state DOT to the Preserve back in 2001 to fund carriage road resurfacing and bridge projects.
The project has not yet been put out to bid. The total cost has been estimated at $696,140. In early August, state assemblyperson representative Kevin Cahill announced that the DOT had earmarked $340,000 toward completion of the new Trapps Bridge.
Approval from the town board is expected to be routine. Gardiner town supervisor Marybeth Majestic noted that there were “no financial implications” for the town budget. All that will remain will be for the DOT to greenlight the final design and put the bid out to contractors.
While construction is in progress, Hague hastened to add, there will be temporary trail access on the south side. “We’re still going to be open for business. People will still be able to visit the Ridge.”