$1.7M Erie Canal Restoration Project Begins Work


Earlier this month, the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced that construction began on a $1.7 million project to stabilize the historic Erie Canal Aqueduct at Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site.

The aqueduct was built in 1841 and is one of the oldest remaining original structures of the canal. The upcoming project will reportedly involve extensive repairs to the aqueduct's foundation and structure, as well as the installation of new interpretive signage to educate visitors about the site's history.

“We are thrilled to be able to undertake this important project and preserve this engineering landmark for the enjoyment of all New Yorkers,” said State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid. “This stabilization project will ensure that the aqueduct remains a world-class destination for visitors, while also honoring the ingenuity and hard work of the New Yorkers who built it over 180 years ago.

“The aqueduct is a component of one of our most visible parks within the Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor and tells the story of New York's role in the expansion of our nation.”

Aqueduct History

The Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site in Montgomery County, New York, includes a two-mile-long segment of several locks and canals, as well as the remains of the Schoharie Creek Aqueduct. The structure spans across Schoharie Creek and consists of 14 stone arches for the towing path and a timber trunk for the boat channel.

Designed in part by John B. Jervis, the aqueduct was built by Otis Eddy with construction starting in 1839. It replaced the slackwater crossing of the creek afforded by a series of dams, all of which proved inadequate to cope with the annual flooding of the creek. 

The structure was reportedly completed in 1841 and was put into service in 1845. A new timber trunk was built in 1855 and again in 1873.

Currently, the aqueduct is only partially intact. One of the piers fell into the river in 1941, leading to the demolition of all but nine arches at the southwest end to reduce impedance to stream flow as well as the risk of further collapse. 

Despite these efforts, more collapses occurred over the years, with the latest occurring in 1998. Since then, the number of arches has been reduced to six.

Schoharie Crossing State Historic Site is dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the Erie Canal as one of the 19th century's greatest commercial and engineering projects. The Visitor Center exhibit traces the history of the Erie Canal and its impact on the growth of New York State and the nation.

“With the upcoming bicentennial of the Erie Canal in 2025, stabilization of the Schoharie Aqueduct could not be more timely,” said Executive Director of the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor Bob Radliff.

“This momentous project will offer hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Empire State Trail and Erie Canal opportunities to touch history, learn about the far-reaching impacts of New York's canals, and witness the State's stewardship of historic resources.”

According to the OPRHP, the Erie Canal Aqueduct is a popular destination for history buffs and outdoor enthusiasts alike. The restoration project is anticipated to be completed later this year.

Recent Erie Canal Bridge Project

Last year, the New York State Department of Transportation reportedly closed the Armitage Road bridge in Seneca County for a repainting and repair project. The structure has been listed in poor condition on the National Bridge Inventory since 1991.

Originally built in 1914 over the Erie Canal, the one-lane, steel truss structure was also rebuilt in 1951. The largest span on the bridge is 180.8 feet long, with the total length reaching 307.8 feet. The deck width is only 14.8 feet, and the plate girder approaches on both sides are angled.

The bridge had been last painted in 1991, but a structural appraisal completed in September 2018 showed that the structure was generally in poor condition, with four out of nine ratings on several points, including the superstructure. However, it still met “minimal tolerable limits to remain in place,” despite the deck geometry and approaches appraisal noting it was “basically intolerable requiring high priority of replacement.”

In terms of coatings specifically, 1,887 square feet of coatings on the superstructure were ranked in serious condition, as well as nine square feet on the bearings. 5,424 square feet were also noted to be in poor condition on the open grid deck.

A DOT spokesperson told reporters that as the structure was painted, it would also be evaluated for repair work. Work was anticipated to be completed by the end of 2022.

Funding came from federal and state sources, with a total budget of $800,000. However, the same September 2018 inspection report recommended “bridge deck replacement with only incidental widening” with an estimated cost of work at $5,632,000.


Tagged categories: Government contracts; Historic Preservation; Historic Structures; NA; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Restoration; Restoration

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