April 14, 2009


Red Mill Bridge might be moved

Project would preserve historic Freeville bridge by relocating, replacing it

Red Mill BridgeBob Ellis/staff photographer
The Red Mill Bridge, just off Fall Creek Road between McLean and Freeville, has been closed for several years. In the background is Becks Farm. Officials are trying to move the bridge to connect Genung Nature Preserve and Groton Avenue Park as a pedestrian bridge.

Staff Reporter

FREEVILLE — The Red Mill Bridge might get a second life farther down Fall Creek, as Tompkins County, Dryden and Freeville officials seek to move it and build a replacement.
The 120-foot bridge, built in 1887, has been closed to vehicular and pedestrian traffic since December 2005 because its steel trusses are decayed.
That has posed problems for Beck Farms, the large dairy farm on the ridge above the creek. The owners have needed to use Peruville and West Hadleyville roads for farm vehicles to access land on the other side of Route 366, known locally as Fall Creek Road.
With the approval of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historical Preservation, the three municipalities would move the bridge about two miles down the creek to a spot where it would connect Genung Nature Preserve and Groton Avenue Park as a pedestrian bridge.
The state would help obtain federal stimulus money for the project, which would involve not just moving the bridge but building a new one for vehicles on Red Mill Road, said John Lampman, county highway engineer.
Moving the bridge will cost about $200,000, Lampman said. He and Jack Bush, Dryden town highway superintendent, said the bridge could be moved as one unit or disconnected in the middle and moved in halves.
Bush said he really needs to see the bridge’s overall condition before he will know how it could be moved.
A new bridge will cost just over $1 million.
County officials and the state historical preservation office have been talking about what to do for a decade.
At one point they considered preserving the current bridge as a pedestrian crossing and building a new bridge next to it, but local residents opposed that idea because there was not enough vehicular traffic across the bridge to warrant such a plan.
The new plan has a chance of going forward because of state officials’ backing and the possibility of federal stimulus money, Lampman said.
The plan will be submitted to the state Department of Transportation in the next few months, after county, town and Freeville officials agree on a design.
Lampman said the county has alternative sites for the old bridge in case the Genung Nature Preserve site does not work out, including a snowmobile trail over Virgil Creek in the village of Dryden.
Bush said the Red Mill Bridge probably has been rebuilt at times over the decades but is ultimately unsafe for traffic.
“We replaced part of the deck about 10 years ago and I saw the I-beams were disintegrating,” he said.
The bridge’s closing has meant that snow removal and road maintenance have been a challenge. It has also proved costly for the Beck Farms, as the West Hadleyville Road bridge across Fall Creek has a weight limit, so some farm vehicles are too big to drive across it and must go in the other direction down Peruville Road to Ed Hill Road.
Bush said the Becks’ land extends across Fall Creek, onto East Hadleyville Road. They milk about 1,000 head total, he said.
The Becks did not return a phone call.
“It probably costs them about $25,000 a year in additional fuel costs to take those alternate roads,” Bush said. “And if that bridge on West Hadleyville Road ever went out, that would make the situation worse.”
“The historical preservation office would accept relocating the bridge to a place where it could serve a purpose,” Lampman said.
He said that if the bridge was simply demolished and replaced, the federal stimulus money would not be available because the environmental review process for a new bridge would take time, extending beyond the period when the stimulus funds are available.


To read this article and more, pick up today's Cortland Standard
Click here to subscribe