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About the Jay Covered Bridge [NY-16-01]
- A history collected from the archives of the
New York State Covered Bridge Society*

New York State Covered Bridge Society Newsletter
News clips - February 1998 through February 2004


On October 14, 1997 Janet Corby, Oriskany, NY sent me a Xeroxed copy of an article, "Jay Covered Bridge: Gone Forever?: What happens when history and common sense don't count" from the Summer 1997 issue of Adirondack Voices written by Fred Balzac, president of Bridge and Beyond.
Jay Bridge. Photo by Dick Wilson, May 1997
JAY Bridge [NY-16-01] Photo taken the week
the bridge was closed, by Dick Wilson, May, 1997
       In the article Fred gives a synopsis, by date, of the events leading up to the dismantling and removal of the Jay Covered Bridge (NY-16-01). I will quote just a small part of what he wrote: ..."the swiftness with which the county removed the bridge was . . . awe-inspiring. It's taken Essex County 14 years and reportedly $1 million and it still hasn't come up with an appropriate location for a new bridge to replace the covered bridge, yet the county managed to take out the Jay Covered Bridge--a structure that has withstood floods and ice for 140 years--in just four weeks!
       In the process, the county violated federal law, namely, the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. It also wrongly shut the public out of the decision-making process. And county officials clearly misled and deceived the public, the press, and state officials."
To help ensure the Jay Covered Bridge (JCB) is restored and put back over the Ausable River, please write: Federal Highway Administration, Attn: Jane Garvey, Administrator, 400 Seventh Street, SW, Washington, DC 20590.
       Demand that the Jay Covered Bridge be returned be- fore a new bridge is built, to ensure that the renovation option is given full consideration as part of the federally funded environmental impact process.
MAY, 1998

David Guay, Glens Falls, NY, was good enough to send xerox copies of articles which appeared in the Post Star of March 27, 1998.
       [One of the articles was] "Federal funding for Jay covered bridge clears hurdle" [which] heralds the hopes of restoring the historic Jay Bridge (NY-1601) to its place over the east bank of the Ausable River. A $1 million grant to restore the bridge, dismantled in May 1997, must pass the House and be approved by a joint House-Senate conference committee. If successful, the grant would cover the entire cost of restoring and replacing the bridge, county officials said.
       Current county plans only call for restoring the bridge for pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Fred Balzac, leader of Bridge and Beyond, has called on the county to restore at least limited vehicular traffic on the bridge and is urging officials to move quickly if federal funding is approved and not wait two or three years to begin restoring the bridge.

       A postcard dated Oct. 21, 1998 from Phyllis Wells, Plattsburgh, NY informed me the Press Republican for Oct. 18th indicated the new transportation legislation (TEA 21) has included $750,000 to rehabilitate the Jay covered bridge. She stopped by the bridge on Oct. 20 and found a sign on it: "No trespassing. Patrolled by State Police." There was also a stone marker on a cement base which says: "Town of Jay's historic covered bridge - built in 1857." This is at the end near the replacement bridge.

MAY 1999

       Jeff Meyers, Staff Writer for the Press Republican, Plattsburgh, NY authored an article in the Feb. 20, 1999 edition of the newspaper with the title "A gap bridged; Historic, controversial Jay Covered Bridge to be put up." Phyllis Wells sent me the article after I questioned the status of the bridge in the February Newsletter.
       The large 6x8 three-quarter photograph by Michael Phillips, which accompanies the article, shows large holes along the sides of the wooden structure, an apparent victim of souvenir seekers or vandals since its removal from its site over the AuSable River almost two years ago. Now the State Police are patrolling the area and have posted no- trespassing signs on the bridge.
       Now that Essex County has received $750,000 in federal funding to fix the historic structure, preliminary plans for the project are already under way. County Highway Superintendent Frederick Buck says they hope to have reconstruction begin on the Jay Covered Bridge (NY-16-01) in June 2001 and be completed in 2002.
       A public hearing will be held in June or July to decide whether the new bridge across the river will be placed 400 feet below the original site or 1 ,400 feet upstream, the two options decided upon after months of design work. Construction on the new bridge will probably start in May 2001 with completion by October 2002. The bulk of the $5.5 million cost expected for both bridges will come from federal highway funds with Essex County required to add about $200,000 to the federal money for rebuilding the bridge.
       Once the new bridge is in operation, the old covered bridge will be placed back at its original site, but would only be used as a pedestrian and bicycle crossing.

The plan represents the best hope not only for saving the bridge, but also for rekindling local efforts to build on Jay's heritage as an historic, scenic, and recreational-river community in the heart of the Adirondack High Peaks region."
       The following are highlights of the restoration plan: "Rehab of the JCB could begin AS EARLY AS NEXT SUMMER (2002), after the structural work is bid out and accepted (scheduled for the spring)
       "A good deal of the work will be done while the JCB is OFF-SITE, essentially putting the 4 pieces of the bridge back together as one structure
       "Engineers will re-use as much of the ORIGINAL MATERIALS as possible - including nearly 60% of the truss diagonals - and then replace as much of what is left with "IN-KIND" MATERIALS
       "After the new bridge is installed downstream, the JCB will be MOVED BACK OVER THE RIVER (possibly by a team of oxen) and then fully refurbished        ''The JCB will span the Ausable WITHOUT ANY CONCRETE PIERS OR STEEL SUBSTRUCTURE much like it did when it was built in 1857 - 58!
       "The county's plan for the bridge includes approach- road work on the Mill Hill side and re-facing of the abutments. The NYS DOTs new bridge project will handle the approach work on the Glen Road side of the river.
       Although the return of the JCB over the AuSable hinges on the construction of the new bridge (now scheduled for 2003-04), the county's plan is vital to the PRESERVATION OF THE JCB AS A STRUCTURE because it will initiate work and carry out much of the rehab while the bridge sits in its current location OFFSITE. At an estimated cost of $1.075 million (including 80% Federal funding), the restoration plan represents a substantial investment in the historic structure - long our NO.1 tourist attraction - as well as in the uture of Jay as an historic destination.
       Many thanks are due to the county Board of Supervisors for keeping their commitment to preserve and restore one of Essex County's true treasures. The county Dept. of Public Works and the engineers it has retained have developed this plan with much thought, care and creativity and are to be congratulated.
       Please share your views on the project with the county (and, by extension, the Federal government) by writing by Dec. 11 th to:

       Frederick Buck, Superintendent
       Essex County Dept. of Public Works
       HCR #1 Box 327, Route 9
       Elizabethtown, NY 12932

       Please write of your support for the restoration of the JCB even though the deadline has passed. Your views can always be forwarded by the county after Dec. 11th, so your voice does make a difference!

In the construction business, contractors get what are called "Dodge Reports". What these are, are notifications of upcoming construction jobs that will be bid on by general contractors. The construction company that member Marikka Guay works for received one on 9/27/02 regarding the Jay CB ( NY-16-01). Here are some specifics of that bid notice.
Status: Design in progress - Tentative bidding by end of year - construction schedules to be determined.
Method of Contracting: To be competitively bid.
Additional Features: Restoration of covered bridge/timber structure (bicycle & pedestrian bridge) - approximately 49 meters (160 ft) - replace timber members - replicate joint details - cast iron castings - create parking spaces - sidewalks
Target Bid Date: 12/2002
Project Estimate: $1,000,000
Type of Work: Alterations/Renovations
NOTE: At the time of printing, there has not been any news of who was awarded the bid to restore the bridge.

On 7/18/03, the job of restoring the Jay CB (NY-16-01) was awarded to Alpine Construction LLC, 41 Lake Street, Stillwater, NY 12170. The successful bid amount for the resto- I ration was $1,481,452. The target start date is listed only I as 08/2003.
       The description of the work to be done is as follows. "restoration of covered bridge/timber structure (bicycle & pedestrian bridge) - approximately 49 meters (160 feet)--replace timber members -- replicate joint details -- cast iron castings -- create parking spaces -- sidewalks."
       This information was obtained from a construction industrybid notification process called "Dodge Reports" which came from co-editor/member Marikka Guay


In an e-mail received from member Phyllis Wells is the information with a headline that read; "Funds will help restore Jay Covered Bridge" and it appeared in the Press Republican, of Plattsburgh, NY dated July 10, 2003. The U.S. Dept. of Transportation's National Historic Covered Brdige Preservation Program has been tapped for a $340,000 grant to help restore the Jay CB, according to Rep. John M. McHugh. Restoration efforts at the covered bridge include a permanent modern structure to be built on a new alignment, allowing the covered bridge to be reset on I the original abutments, as well as a fire detection system to I be installed. The bridge will also be coated with a fire retardant surface. The grant is in addition to the $750,000 in transportation funding McHugh secured for the project in 1998. The restoration work covered by the grant is part of a federal-state-county plan to return it into a pedestrian bicycle crossing.

In an e-mail from Richard Wilson is a story that appeared in the Lake Placid News and was written by Lee Manchester. The job of rehabilitating the Jay CB (NY-16-01) was awarded to ALPINE CONSTRUCTION of Stillwater, NY.
Jay Bridge. Photo by Dick Wilson, May 1997
JAY Bridge [NY-16-01] Photo taken the week the bridge was
closed, by Dick Wilson, May, 1997
       Alpine's bid was lower than it's closest competitor by more than a quarter million dollars. $652,184 was the amount chosen.
       Because Alpine's bid was so much lower than the next lowest bid, offices of the Essex Co. DPW had to consult with Alpine to make sure nothing had been overlooked in its estimate of the job's costs. The second factor that had to be checked was if they were qualified to do historic preservation and restoration work on covered bridges. The third, delay in naming the contractor who will restore the bridge was purely bureaucratic. Even though Essex Co. had made its choice weeks earlier, the decision was not final until it worked its way through the state DOT.
       Jay town Supervisor Tom O'Neill said that some of the work on the project will begin almost immediately. "Alpine says they have to cut their timbers in November."
       Restoration engineers have said that, because of damage by salt & water carried onto the bridge by vehicles each winter, the entire floor will have to be replaced, along with 80 percent of the lower support members and half of the upper members. The bulk of the restoration work will be started in April 2004.
       Rehabilitation of the bridge should be completed by the end of 2004. The restored bridge will remain where it is on the banks of the Au Sable River until a new two-lane vehicular bridge is built 400 feet downstream over the next couple of years. When the new bridge is completed, the temporary one-lane bridge now spanning the river will be removed. At that point the covered bridge will be put back in its place. The restored covered bridge will only be used to carry bicycles and pedestrians.
       In another article sent by Phyllis Wells that appeared in the Press-Republican of Plattsburgh, NY dated Dec.18,2003 reported that the Jay CB will be dismantled for repair and reassembly in the next year. "Workers are swarming over the wooden edifice, carefully pulling it apart." They started this week at taking the bridge apart in the town park where it has been stored. "The bridge is being dismantled and large timber is also being cut to replace members that need it", said Frederick Buck, Essex Co. Public Works Super- intendent. The bridge will be put back over the river after the new vehicular bridge is completed sometime in late 2005. Alpine is just doing the restoration work, but not the resetting of the bridge. "We're going to reuse all the materials to reassemble it", said Project Superintendent Guy Henke

[*This material has been posted with the permission and support of Dick Wilson, President, NYSCBS - Ed.]

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Joe Nelson, P.O Box 267, Jericho, VT 05465-0267
This file posted April 21, 2004