State will rebuild Route 14A bridge
By Peter Mantius
READING—The state plans to rebuild the one-way bridge at the intersection of Route 14 and Route 14A in Reading known as Gabriel’s Junction, a senior official at the New York State Department of Transportation confirmed Oct. 7.
After highway engineers noted corrosion on the bridge’s steel beams this summer, the DOT announced July 28 that trucks weighing more than 22 tons would be barred from crossing it.
According to the DOT’s website, the rebuilding will cost an estimated $3.68 million in state and federal funds. Bid opening on the construction is scheduled for the fall of 2012 and the job is expected to be completed in the fall of 2013.
Requiring large trucks to go around the existing bridge for two years could complicate plans for a major liquid petroleum gas (LPG) truck-rail depot on Route 14A less than half mile west of the bridge.
Kansas City-based Inergy has said it plans to build a depot capable of handling up to 48 LPG trucks a day to service its proposed LPG storage facility in salt caverns owned by its subsidiary, US Salt.
In its Sept. 28 advisory, DOT said heavy trucks traveling north on Route 14 that plan to turn on to Route 14A should instead pass under the Gabriel’s Junction bridge and use the Route 14A entrance ramp for southbound traffic on Route 14. This requires a hard left turn of more than 90 degrees across traffic traveling at 55 miles per hour.
If Inergy meets the goal it has set to begin operating its LPG facility and truck-rail depot by April 2012—roughly 18 months before the bridge rebuilding is scheduled to be completed—thousands of LPG tankers would have to make the awkward left turn across Route 14 traffic.
Brian Kelly, acting regional director for DOT Region 6, said state engineers are assessing the level of hazard involved in making the left turn. He said the entrance ramp may need to be “reconfigured.”
Dennis Fagan, chairman of the Schuyler County Commission, said he did not know the DOT planned to rebuild the 14A bridge at Gabriel’s Junction or that the state had posted a 22-ton weight limit on it.
Asked to comment on the potential danger of LPG tankers turning left across Route 14 traffic for up to 18 months, Fagan said he doubted Inergy would meet its goal of opening the truck-rail depot by April. He estimated that it wouldn’t be completed until next fall at the earliest.
Kelly said the decision to rebuild 14A was made by DOT engineers and was neither connected to Inergy’s plans for the truck-rail depot nor influenced by officials outside the DOT.
“There is no such link to Inergy,” Kelly said in an interview. “This is about a bunch of engineers looking at a bridge that’s old.”
The DOT also plans to rebuild two other bridges on Route 14A—one in Dundee over Big Stream Creek and one in Penn Yan over the Keuka Lake Outlet. The Penn Yan construction is underway. Those two projects are estimated to cost a combined $4.32 million.
One opponent of Inergy’s LPG storage project said she saw a pattern.
“It seems highly coincidental that these bridge construction proposals run concurrently with Inergy’s plan to turn the Finger Lakes into the gas storage and transportation hub for the Northeast,” said Yvonne Taylor, co-founder of Gas Free Seneca, which opposes Inergy’s bid to win approval for the LPG storage project from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Taylor noted that the DOT is also rebuilding a bridge on Route 226 near Tyrone. That rural road connects Route 14A with Savona, where Inergy already operates an LPG storage facility. State records say that project will cost $1.9 million.
“These bridges will be updated to increase their capacity to withstand the extra tonnage LPG tanker trucks will be carrying,” Taylor said. “New York taxpayers will be incurring the costs involved for these projects, while out-of-state Inergy will reap the benefits.”
LPG can be hauled in trucks of a variety of sizes and weights. But one company that sells tractor trailers commonly used to haul LPG lists most of them as weighing 24 tons or more empty. The vehicles typically have a capacity of 10,000-14,000 gallons. LPG weighs about 4.2 pounds per gallon. So a loaded LPG tanker could weigh 50 tons or more.
A spokesman for Inergy did not respond to questions, emailed Oct. 7, about bridge reconstruction and its potential affect on local traffic.
In an environmental impact statement Inergy prepared for DEC, the company said: “There will be no impacts as a result of the traffic that will be using the (truck-rail) facility.” The EIS said the facility would be “capable of loading 30 trucks a day,” and it doesn’t mention any potential issues with the 14A bridge.
In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said the facility would be able to handle 48 trucks per day.