HIGH FALLS – Residents of the High Falls hamlet in Marbletown started their day Wednesday with a literal blast as work crews demolished the old Route 213 bridge over Rondout Creek with explosives, to make way for a newly constructed replacement span.
Contractors have been pulling up the roadway since shortly after New Years. But they needed to tackle the remaining infrastructure the old-fashioned way – by blowing it up. Demolition took place 9:30 a.m. It was all over in a few seconds.
There was originally no viewing area available to watch the event, until Governor Andrew Cuomo made a last-minute appearance, resulting in a media event. Safety perimeter was established 1,000 feet from the blast site. A hazy gander was offered from a nearby furniture outlet on the west side of the creek.
According to crew members and demolition experts on site Tuesday, linear shaped copper clad charges were used, at strategic points along the steel frame. The explosives were supervised by subcontractor Controlled Demolition Inc.
“And now we are ready, cross our fingers,” Cuomo said as he prepared to activate the detonator. “That plunger looks a little scary. We spent $2 billion; you thought we would have bought a new plunger. But we have confidence and we have faith, and if it doesn’t work, its Mike Hein’s fault,” Cuomo added, referring to the Ulster County executive who had his hand placed over Cuomo’s for the big bang. “I just want you to know, he was in charge of the plunger.”
With that, the group counted down backwards from 10, pushed the plunger down, resulting in a loud boom down the road, followed by a large cloud of smoke and dust. The governor walked down to the water to observe the debris, then quickly departed without any further comments or questions.
Pieces of debris will later be fished out of the water with heavy equipment.
“There’s no good way to get at it; that’s the problem; that’s why we have to do it like we did it, probably back when they put it up, they had barges and stuff like that to put under it, to erect it,” explained the project supervisor, subcontracting for Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors Inc., in joint venture with The Wesson Group.
“It’s amazing how sensitive the human body is,” said a flyer distributed to area residents late last week. “If you are standing downwind, you will think you feel it when you hear the noise created by the charges being detonated. Actually, you won’t, nor will you feel the vibration.” The letter noted that seismographs were used to measure the actual strength of the explosion and falling debris.
The old crossing which was destroyed is 260 feet long, erected in 1931, spanning the creek along state highway 213, halfway between Rosendale and Stone Ridge on the Marbletown side – just above the local waterfall. A small hydro-electric power plant is also located near the work site.
According to state Department of Transportation data, approximately 3,650 vehicles use the route daily. Traffic has been detoured since work began January 3, and is expected to return to normal sometime in late June 2017.
Meanwhile, the alternate plan re-routes motorists 3.5 miles east around Cottekill Road in Rosendale, back to nearby Lucas Turnpike. Some residents have the option of taking the lower crossing along Kyserike Road, across Lucas Turnpike from Rondout Valley High School. The disruption inconveniences businesses on both sides of the creek.
High Falls Food Co-Op, adjacent to the bridge on the Lucas Avenue side, was closed for about 45 minutes Wednesday during the blasting, for safety purposes. Popular bistro The Last Bite, located on the Rosendale side of the bridge, has opted to close for the winter until the new bridge is finished.