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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
A Matter of Dollars and Sense
OXFORD – It’s not too late to get bridge design ideas or comments to the engineers at the DPW and Delta for the Oxford replacement bridge.
On May 22, the second public informational meeting regarding the Oxford Main Street Bridge took place at the Oxford Fire Department. Concerns were raised regarding the effects of the delayed building date, the protective pedestrian hand railing, and the historic elements. The bridge is now in the "detailed design phase". When completed, it will be a reflection of Oxford for the next 50-70 years. The deadline for comments has been extended until the next Steering Committee meeting.
Public feedback will be a topic of discussion at the upcoming Oxford Historical Society (OHS) officers meeting on June 21st, at noon. This is an open meeting; all may attend. People will have the opportunity to brainstorm ideas. It’s true that additional elements may raise the bridge cost, however, with Oxford’s historic image at stake, and leaving a legacy for future generations, shouldn’t the bridge make a proud statement?
Dave Kennicutt, PE, Delta Engineers Project Manager, explained at the May bridge meeting that the NY State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO), has now gotten involved. They established that no one particular bridge design, but the crossing itself was integral to the development of the Village of Oxford. Therefore, the bridge is considered "historically significant"; it is a "contributing element" to the historic district. They did not however, establish any design or aesthetic guidelines (-which includes any Burr references). In addition, SHPO cleared the bridge site from any archaeological investigations due to prior disturbances.
Unfortunately SHPO requires more impact studies, documents, and procedures which are expected to set back plans by nine months. Construction will likely be in 2009.
It was said that the bridge’s new look would be based on the area’s architecture, and that it would be designed to blend into the setting. The current design plans, considered "conventional", may have been based on the lowest cost design (which is still $2.75 million), as it seems quite plain. The plan has no trusses, which do open up the view, it’s wider from curb to curb, it will have a lookout, a central support pier, and a concrete bridge barrier or railing referred to as a "Texas Aesthetic Barrier". Included in the plans were period-looking, decorative street lamps and concrete made to resemble stone showing on the sides of the bridge – elements intended to give the bridge an historic feel.
Delta Engineers have designed a bridge to serve the community well and meet all state and federal regulations. Despite numerous requests for a Burr-style wooden covered bridge (even several from out-of-state); it was out of the question due to its expense and impracticality. There were, however, no alternate design choices or suggested options proposed for Oxford’s (mostly pre-Civil War era) style, nor were there even suggestive Burr elements as were mentioned at the first Oct. 17th meeting. Mayor Stark suggested coloring the concrete darker to resemble the bank’s aged bluestone building. It was also suggested that short columns be built at the ends of the bridge to give it a more stately appearance.
In a recent email, Dave Kennicutt stated, "We understand the significance of Theodore Burr to the community, and continue to look at ways in which we can incorporate a Burr theme into the structure…."
One of the biggest safety concerns was the need for a second protective railing for pedestrian traffic -given the proximity to the Middle School- mainly for junior high students. Kennicutt received a lot of negative responses from the NYSDOT, such as: the state may not approve it, SHPO may not like it, it could be an impediment for kids getting back on the curb, it may be in the way for plowing and it might cause a lack of maintenance. The Oxford Academy and Central School Board of Education provided a document, from Randall W. Squier, Superintendent of Schools, in favor of this handrail. It explained that the Oxford situation was "…unique, not having the same mix of vehicular and pedestrian traffic as new bridges in Greene, Owego, and Binghamton have."
As for structural worries regarding the extended time before rebuilding, Randy Gibbon explained that the bridge, which has already been patched, will still undergo regular inspections. He feels that if people adhere to the 20 ton limit, the bridge should last. If problems arise, however, the bridge will be closed and a detour has been planned.
Comments? How do you want Oxford to be remembered? If you can’t come to the OHS 6/21 meeting, you may still convey your wishes in 3 ways: you may email from the OxfordNY website http://www.oxfordny.com/government/bridge_comment.php; write Randy Gibbon, PE, Director, CC DPW, 79 Rexford Street, Norwich, NY 13815; or fax Randy at: (607) 336-8988. Be sure to add: BIN 1041740.