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Ludlowville Road BridgeLudlowville Road BridgeThe weight limit on the (behind the bus) was reduced to 12 tons

Deteriorating bridges in the Town of Lansing are causing not only inconvenience for residents of Ludlowville and the Lansing School District, but safety reductions in their allowed weight limits have raised red flags for Lansing Fire Chief Scott Purcell, who wrote a letter to the Lansing Town Board to explain that response times to areas in the town are up to three times longer due to detours caused by the rickety bridges.

"I bring you these concerns to make you aware of the issues Lansing Fire Department is having," Purcell wrote. "I am aware that the Town does not oversee or maintain any of the bridges in Lansing.  If that were the case we would not be having this conversation because the problems would have been addressed a long time ago and would have been taken care of.  What I am asking is that the Town Board use whatever power it has to reach out to other government officials such as members of the State Assembly and State Senate to find the funding to fix these bridges and make them capable of supporting large fire apparatus again.  I know there will not be an overnight solution to the problem, but it needs to be addressed and a plan put in motion to fix this problem before there is a large loss of property, or, even worse, the loss of human life."

The board discussed four bridges that span Salmon Creek in different locations that make access to Ludlowville and Lansingville especially difficult, not only for fire apparatus, but also for snow plows and trash and recycling collection.  In his letter Purcell gave examples of extended emergency response times the failing bridges cause.

"135 Ludlowville Rd, the first house north of the bridge with a 12 ton weight restriction.  What used to be a 3 minute response time and 1.6 miles is now a 7 minute response time and 3.5 miles," Purcell said. "397 Salmon Creek Road, using Myers Road to Ridge Road to Lansingville Road to Lockerby Hill Road and south on Salmon Creek Road will be a response time of 13 minutes and 7.9 miles compared to what it should be: a response time of 7 minutes and 3.9 miles."

Chief Purcell acknowledged that there are two fire stations in Lansingville and North Lansing, but response times are at least eight minutes from those locations, with minimal crew.  When a 911 call comes in volunteer firefighters and EMTs receive the calls on portable radios.  Those who are free or can get away from work quickly drive to the nearest fire station.  The largest concentration of equipment is at Central Station, because it is most accessible for the majority of volunteers.  They quickly change into fire gear, and within minutes the large fire trucks depart for the scene of the fire.

Bridge on Ridge RoadThe Salmon Creek bridge on Ridge Road is to be repaired, and then replaced

Ludlowville is especially vulnerable because the hamlet is accessed by three bridges. You can drive from east to west on Ridge Road (State Highway 34B) over the large state-owned Salmon Creek bridge just west of Lansing Middle School, to Ludlowville Road, and drive downhill into the hamlet.  Or you can drive north on Ludlowville Road, crossing the county-owned metal grate bridge that leads into the center of the hamlet.  Or you can approach from the north on Salmon Creek Road, crossing the historic, newly restored Red Bridge.

Red bridge is a one lane bridge that is normally rated at a maximum load of 18 tons.  It was replaced over a two year period during which a temporary bridge was erected over Salmon Creek to service Salmon Creek Road traffic.  It was officially reopened late in 2017.

Red BridgeRed Bridge is limited to 18 tons

Highway Superintendent Charlie Purcell said that county officials advised that fire apparatus may cross the Ludlowville Road bridge in emergencies if drivers use caution. He said the county is also determining whether Red Bridge can safely handle the weight of fire apparatus, and,if so, a waiver may be issued for the fire department to cross it.

The bridge on 34B was originally scheduled to be entirely replaced this year, but budget concerns forces the NYS Department Of Transportation (DOT) to postpone the replacement.  Now the bridge is slated to be replaced in 2021.  But the bridge continued to deteriorate to the point where the weight limit was reduced to 9 tons.  Soon after that the DOT doubled the weight cap by making it a one-way bridge with traffic lights allowing traffic to go either east or west at any given time.  School Superintendent Chris Pettograsso has said that even with the raised weight limit school buses are being routed around that bridge.

Emergency repairs to the 34B bridge will provide a stop-gap solution until it can be replaced, with demolition beginning over a year from now.  DOT officials estimate that the bridge will be closed for two years, from early 2021 to the end of 2022.

"It's a massive bridge to take down," said a DOT official when the project was first presented to the public in 2017. "We haven't figured out if it's going to be taken down piece by piece like a Lego set, or if we're going to drop something into the creek with dynamite. Once it's down we can start working on the new bridge."

On Monday Village of Lansing Mayor Donald Hartill told the Village Trustees that the weight limit on the 34B bridge is also causing more heavy truck traffic on Triphammer Road.

"One of the complications at the moment is the bridge by the high school in Lansing is now a one lane bridge," he said. "As a result of that heavy truck traffic is now routed around that bridge. The fallout from that is that Triphammer Road is now considered a path for heavy trucks. Fortunately we built it with enough strength that it will tolerate that, but it also means you'll see 18-wheelers going by."

The smaller bridges are owned and maintained by Tompkins County.  The Ludlowvile Road bridge had no weight restriction until it was bumped down to 12 tons.  At one point Town officials discovered that the County and State were not coordinating, and both bridge repairs were scheduled for the same time period, which would effectively make Ludlowville virtually unreachable.  LaVigne said he reached out to County Legislator Mike Sigler, who provided information on the steel grate Ludlowville Road bridge.

"A sign says there is a weight limit of 12 tons on the Ludlowville Road bridge now. The fire chief is concerned about that," Town Supervisor LaVigne said. "He's concerned about that, how you get emergency fire equipment over there because the pumper engine is roughly 27 tons. The pumper tanker is 35 tons. The heavy rescue is 31 tons and a ladder truck is 38 tons."

Dug Road BridgeWith a weight limit of 15 tons the Dug Road Bridge is unable to sustain the weight of emergency vehicles

Chief Purcell also brought attention to the Dug Road bridge, which has had a reduced weight limit as well. Originally limited to 15 tons, it is now capped at 6 tons.

"Simply put, we cannot offer any fire protection to those residents other than a small command vehicle with a fire extinguisher.  In other words, those residents will endure very minimal fire protection to none," the Chief wrote.

LaVigne added that trash collection and snow plowing are nonexistent on Dug Road because the bridge cannot support vehicles used for those purposes.

"They have a dumpster on the other side," LaVigne explained. "So they walk across the bridge and put their trash in the dumpster."

Town officials are especially concerned about the coordination or lack of coordination between the State and Tompkins County.  While those entities have been alerted to the traffic issues, town officials are not convinced that the bridge repair schedules are being coordinated.

"We have a letter of record sharing those concerns," LaVigne said.

But Highway Superintendent Purcell said he had received a phone call from the County earlier Wednesday during which he was told the County is aware of the problem and hoping to get its bridge on Ludlowville road repaired before the big bridge is closed.

"I did get a call today from the engineering department of the County," Purcell said. "Obviously they're looking at questions about a temporary water line and stuff like that.  The interpretation I can got from him today is that as soon as weather breaks in the Spring, this Ludlowville Road Bridge is going to be done, because his urgency is that he's got to get ahead of the DOT bridge."

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