Blenheim Bridge taking shape

Blenheim Bridge taking shape
By Patsy Nicosia

History is getting remade in Blenheim. Seven years after floodwaters from Hurricane Irene carried the 160-year-old Blenheim Bridge away, contractors are putting the finishing pieces on a look-alike replacement. Stan Graton of Stan Graton II 3G Construction, the firm hired to rebuild the bridge, said Wednesday that once the temporary supports are in place—something that’s likely another two or three weeks away—the bridge will be ready to roll. Literally. Crews for Economy Paving, the general contractors hired by GPI Engineers for the project and also at work Wednesday on the east of the creek, will use a large mechanical dolly to roll the bridge onto a temporary support structure before raising it up and dropping it down onto the new abutments. Once it’s in place, Mr. Graton said, his workers will be back at it, finishing the siding and laying the bridge deck. He expects their work on the bridge to be completed in May; work began about a year ago and the entire project is expected to be finished by the end of October. The Town of Blenheim, which included replacing the bridge in its flood recovery plans, will celebrate and dedicate the new bridge likely ater this summer. Replacing the bridge, historically the longest single-span covered bridge in the country, is being financed by FEMA at a cost of $5.8 million. Though the 2018 bridge will be the same size and design as its predecessor, it will be 12-15 feet higher to help protect it from flooding. But because of grading, Mr. Graton said it will be hard to tell the difference. Supervisor Don Airey, who championed the bridge’s replacement even before he was elected in November 2017, said he’s thrilled with the look of the new bridge. “Looking at old photos, the color of the siding is perfect,” he said. “They’ve done a great job.” Still, with snow, then rain, then snow again constantly changing the level of the creek, Mr. Airey said he’ll sleep a lot better once the new bridge is in place in its new home. “One hundred and 50 years and pretty much nothing happened in Blenheim,” he said with a laugh. “Now, we can’t keep up with it. We’ve got a lot of balls in the air.” With additional funding through New York Rising, Mr. Airey said the town also plans to demolish the old highway garage adjacent to the bridge and use it for parking and a pavilion for bridge visitors. “The bridge is an important piece of our economy,” he said, “not just Blenheim’s, but all of Schoharie County—especially the southern towns. We’re hoping we can use this to really start leveraging some growth.”

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