Sunday, June 23, 2013

The (Seneca River) Bridges of Cayuga County

I was reminded by a friend that one of the old bridges over the Seneca River had a name plate that on it that gave a date of 1913, which would mean that the bridge is 100 years old this year. It certainly points out that we should give some attention to the NYS Barge Canal.

The old Erie Canal passed through the villages of Weedsport, Port Byron and Montezuma. When the new replacement canal was to be constructed, the decision was made to use the Seneca River rather than using the old land cut. In fact, from the Palmyra area east, the entire canal was placed into the river and lake channels that crossed the State. This meant that the Seneca River, Oneida River, Oneida Lake and the Mohawk River would be dredged and made ready to pass boats of 2000 ton burdens.

In Cayuga County, the Seneca River forms the border of the towns of Brutus, Cato, Mentz, Conquest, and Montezuma. The total length of the river in the county is slightly over 15 miles. Nowhere along the line was a settlement as all had been built up around the Erie Canal, AND much of the land around the slow moving river was mucky, wetlands.

The new barge canal was to be 12 feet deep and have a clearance over the water of at least 15-1/2 feet. The navigation channel was to be 200 feet wide, although the river was much wider. This meant that all of the twelve bridges over the river would need to be rebuilt with more substantial structures.

Today three of these bridges remain, although two are no longer open to vehicle traffic. The bridge on Bonta Bridge Road is a single lane, three span structure.

The other two are closed to all traffic. The O'Neil Road bridge is a two span structure that is getting taken over by poison ivy, although a trail does wind its way through the brush and ivy.

The last bridge is the Howland Island bridge. It appears to be the most "beefy" of the three. It is a three span structure that looks wide enough for two lanes.

There will be more to come on the bridges of Cayuga County.

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