GARDINER—Motorists crossing the Mohonk Preserve are receiving a much-needed improvement to their commute. The Merritt Construction company is in the process of replacing the Trapps Bridge in the preserve’s southern district with new infrastructure that is designed to improve motorists’ visibility and trail users’ access to the preserve.
In mid-March, the Saugerties-based construction company began tearing down and removing the 90-year-old bridge from the preserve. The next phase, project engineer Robert Pardy said, is to remove the stone abutments that lifted the bridge over Route 44/55.
Pardy said the new Trapps Bridge was designed to improve motorists’ visibility of oncoming traffic. The span will sit perpendicular to the road, and is 20 feet wider and 18 inches taller than its predecessor.
Additionally, the new bridge is designed to improve trail users’ access to the preserve. A pedestrian parking lot with spaces reserved for trail users with limited mobility and preserve staff is slated for construction adjacent to the trail. Currently, Trapps is the only site that offers parking for individuals with limited mobility.
Emily Hague, the director of Land Protection at the preserve, said the parking lot and reservations were based on demand. She went on to say the Trapps Bridge and its adjoining trail head are one of the main points of access into the preserve.
A ramp is also slated for construction on the north side of Route 44/55. The ramp will replace the existing stone steps, and will ease users access to the trail from the road.
Geoff Yowell, the co-owner of the Bicycle Depot in New Paltz, said the ramp and parking lot are welcomed additions. Yowell, who frequently bikes on the preserve with his two young children, said the traffic from Route 44/55 makes it difficult to access the trail from the road.
The $941,000 bridge will arrive in the town of Gardiner in two prefabricated 15.5-ton pieces. Bridge components are manufactured from U.S. steel in Elmira, New York. Construction is expected to be complete by September 2017.
Funding for the project is reported to arrive from the state Department of Transportation; state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; the Open Space Institute and individual donors.
According to the Mohonk Preserve website, the original Trapps Bridge, a repurposed steel railroad bridge, was built in 1930. It replaced an existing span, the wooden Smiley Bridge, when the state carved Route 44/55 from the mountain.
The Trapps trail and trail head are one of over 70 carriage trails and four trail heads.