Phoenicia’s Woodland Valley bridge, closed for repairs since early winter, is expected to reopen by Memorial Day, said Ulster County Deputy Executive Bob Sudlow. The bridge’s two main support beams had reached the end of their useful life and are being replaced.
As part of County Executive Mike Hein’s Building a Better Ulster County initiative, the Department of Public Works targets several small bridges each year, getting a jump on maintenance a short time before a bridge is forced to close due to wear. The bridge had not been red-flagged, as it would have been if the structure were severely compromised, but a winter closing was chosen to give time for repairs to be done by tourist season.
The Woodland Valley bridge crosses the Esopus Creek west of the hamlet of Phoenicia, providing a much-used shortcut for residents of the valley, who have had to drive out to Bridge Street to reach Route 28, a 1.5-mile detour.
The first of the bridge’s two spans was replaced during the winter before snowfall halted the work. Workmen are currently removing the floor system over the second span. Once it is replaced and the floor restored, said Sudlow, “Absent a major rainfall scenario or a prolonged period of rain, we hope to be done before Memorial Day, and hopefully two weeks before then.”
Under the Building a Better Ulster County initiative, he explained, “We make a list of the bridges that are in the worst shape, and sometimes we bundle those together. If we have a bridge like this one and another one ten miles away, we could bid those out together.” Once the contractor has mobilized — transported his equipment — to the first bridge, moving to the second site would be easy, resulting in a lower price. The other option is for the county to use its own workmen to perform the repairs, as it is doing with the Woodland Valley bridge. “We do some of the fabrication in-house,” said Sudlow, “and we do the work in-house, and that gives us the ability to dictate our own time frame and control our costs.”
Even in good weather, locals have noticed periods when no work is being done on the bridge, which Sudlow attributed to the need to divert workers to more urgent jobs. “We do work when we have the opportunity, versus a bridge on a main thoroughfare we’re trying to get replaced for a certain event,” he said. Also highway crews are not allowed to take vacation in the winter, when they are needed for plowing, so some workers take time off in the spring, limiting the available work force.
Once the Woodland Valley bridge is done, Sudlow added, “It’ll have a long life going forward.”