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Bridge to close in spring

SHARON — Concerns have surfaced over a bridge replacement project that is being planned for this spring for the Amenia Union Bridge, which is in Sharon and Amenia and bridges the Mill Brook.

Dutchess County Department of Public Works Director of Engineering Greg Bentley said the bridge, which is located on Route 2 next to Amenia Union Road (near Knibloe Hill Road), is in very poor shape and has to be replaced.

"The current state inspection rating of the bridge is 3.18, which is a low deficient score," Bentley said. "The existing structure, which is a jack arch bridge, has considerable deterioration in the concrete and steel, especially between the first pair of girders."

According to Bentley, in order for the bridge to be taken down and a new one to be constructed, the bridge area will have to be closed. There will not be a temporary lane, and all traffic will have to be rerouted to routes 22 and 343.

The bridge is used not only for local traffic but also by commuters from the city who have come up by train to the Wassaic station.

Residents of Sharon and Wassaic have contacted The Journal to say they are concerned about how the bridge work will impact emergency services. Of particular concern, these residents said, is access to Sharon Hospital.

Affected by the work will be four volunteer ambulance districts, from the towns of Sharon, Kent, Amenia and Wassaic. The fire companies from Sharon, Amenia and Wassaic will also be affected.

Area residents have also said farmers along Route 2 use the back road when they move farm equipment and hay in spring and fall.

School buses from two districts will also have to be rerouted while the work is being done.

Sharon First Selectman Malcolm Brown said that engineers feel that they can’t safely close half of the bridge while working on the other half. Their fear is that the traveled portion of the bridge would give out.

The idea of constructing a temporary bridge has been discussed but it is not without its roadblocks. According to Brown, a temporary bridge would call for portions of the surrounding woodlands to be taken down. The bridge would also run very close to a nearby resident’s front door.

The Mill Brook is also a certified trout stream and there is concern that a temporary bridge would harm the fish.

The idea of using a foot bridge to transport critically ill people across the stream has been discussed as well.

At a public meeting held in Amenia Town Hall on Feb. 26, engineers were given the opportunity to hear some of these concerns and pledged to discuss those ideas while they deliberate on what to do with the bridge.

There has also been talk of using a nearby private farm road (on the Connecticut side of the bridge) for emergency purposes only but again there is concern that the simple bridge on that road would not hold up to this level of traffic.

No start date has been set yet for the construction work, which is expected to take anywhere from three to six months.

But, with its rating of 3.18, the bridge is close to having to be closed whether or not there is construction (if it deteriorates to 3.0 then it will be considered unsound). Inspections of the bridge are being done every other week; should the rating slip any lower the bridge will be closed immediately.

"It’s a complicated situation," Brown said. "And not a happy one."

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