Town and County officials joined local residents to celebrate the reopening of Ludlowville's Red Bridge after nearly two years. Lansing Highway Superintendent Charlie 'Cricket' Purcell hosted a celebration and ribbon cutting Saturday morning before Thanksgiving to commemorate the fact that the bridge, painted green in 1962, has returned to the color that it was named for over a century ago.
"There was an awful lot of good feedback from people who are pleased with how it came out," Purcell said. "Being back to red makes a lot of people happy. It recreates a nice little gateway to the hamlet that is here, and goes along with the history. I think it's great."
The single-lane metal Baltimore through-truss bridge, built in 1920, underwent a major renovation project in 1962, the only one until now, and was repainted in 1996. The 103 foot long x 18 foot wide steel truss bridge is located on Salmon Creek Road, just north of the Lansing Rod & Gun Club. By 2011 County officials were concerned that deterioration to the bridge was so severe that measures had to be taken to make it safe again. In order to do that the $350,000 bridge project had to be funded over a two year period, meaning it would have to be closed during that time.
County Highway Department workers installed a temporary 'Bailey bridge' so Salmon Creek Road would not be closed to traffic. Repairs included replacing the entire north concrete abutment and 75% of the south abutment because of cracking, broken concrete and deterioration. All four steel bridge bearings had corroded beyond repair, there was significant deterioration in 75% of the structural framing members, and the structural members of the trusses needed to be repaired or replaced. The water resistant membrane below the asphalt was beyond its useful life, and corrosion protection needed to be improved. The bridge rail had also deteriorated and no longer met current standards.
Structural work was completed last year, but the bridge remained closed. It was waiting for this year's budget so the painting bid could be authorized. Final work was completed and the bridge was repainted. The Lansing Highway Department put down the asphalt on top of the bridge and tied the approaches on either end of the bridge back in to Salmon Creek Road.
Town Historian Louise Bement said Ludlowville was a thriving community powered by the waters of Salmon Creek. An old dam above the bridge furnished power for a tannery, a fulling and dyeing mill, and a clothing works. There was another dam on the other side of the bridge that powered a gristmill and sawmill in Ludlowville. Before the ribbon-cutting Bement read a portion of an 1997 article by Isabelle Parish, a Ludlowville resident, recounting the repair when it was painted green instead of its signature red.
"In 1961 the town bulldozer went into the creek under the 'Red Bridge' just north of my house to dig out the channel, shoving sand and gravel to either side," Parish wrote. "Then the County, which I am told takes care of all bridges more than 25 feet long, hired some company to repair the bridge. We were entertained by the noise of the jackhammers tearing out the concrete floor, then they put in new iron rods and concrete. The bridge was closed to traffic seven weeks, the ironwork was painted green and yellow. The bridge was put in in 1923 by Collins (name and date were on the southern abutment) after the former bridge was washed away in the flood of August 1922."
Purcell noted that County Highway Manager Jeff Smith and his foreman wanted to be there for the ribbon cutting, but had conflicts in their schedules. County Legislator Mike Sigler and County Clerk Maureen Reynolds represented the County, and Purcell, Bement, Town Clerk Debbie Munson, and Town Councilman-elect Joe Wetmore represented the Town. Sigler and Purcell cut the appropriately red ribbon to cheers from neighbors.
Purcell noted the $350,000 bridge project would have cost considerably more if the one-lane bridge had been upgraded to two lanes. But he also said that people like the historical quality of the one-lane bridge and its impact on the hamlet of Ludlowville.
"A lot of people questioned, why not a two lane bridge?" he said. "A few hundred thousand to take care of this, versus a couple of million. But as I talked to some of the residents, they felt the single land bridge helped control the traffic. It gets people to slow down a little bit, and hopefully take people into consideration who are out on their bicycles or runs or whatever."
He added that the County Highway Department saved a lot of taxpayer money by doing the work instead of contracting it out.
"They try to utilize their own staff as much as they can," he said. "I know a lot of people, over the course of the year and a half the bridge was closed, may have been annoyed wondering what took so long. They had the means to do the bulk of the work themselves. It was a low impact project, and they probably saved the taxpayers around 40 to 50 percent of what the job would have cost. I commend them on that."
Now that Red Bridge is open Purcell said the temporary Bailey Bridge will be moved to Newfield for a similar project.