The Effort to Save the Hojack Swing Bridge
Posted on the web site
April 5, 2003
At the present time The Bridge Project Steering Committee is spear heading the effort to preserve the Hojack Swing Bridge.╩ The Committee meets every two weeks with daily phone calls and eMails.╩ In the 6 + months that this group has been active - having evolved out of an earlier group - the situation has been very fluid and dynamic.╩ Many of the plans made at meetings are outdated before they go into effect.╩ With that disclaimer I will describe where we are now.
About a year ago the US Coast Guard first advised CSX that since they are not using the bridge to carry trains as allowed by the original permit (required because it crosses a navigation channel) CSX would either have to put the bridge back in operation or remove it.╩ Since then there have been several extensions of the Coast Guard threat to impose fines on CSX for not complying, but last September the Coast Guard announced a deadline of November, 2002 for demolition to begin.╩ That deadline was also relaxed, but the threat remained very real.
On February 5, 2003 CSX distributed a letter announcing a March 5th deadline to prevent April demolition of the swing bridge.╩ Within a few days NYS Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO) wrote to CSX advising that there are procedures (106 Environmental Review) that must be followed prior to demolition.╩ (That was the 3rd letter from SHPO essentially restating the same thing.╩ The first two went to The Army Corps of Engineers and the US Coast Guard)
A few days later there was a conference call between the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation Office (who have to issue a permit because demolition will affect a waterway that they administer), the Coast Guard and a CSX Vice President.╩ The Coast Guard agreed to delay penalties against CSX in order to allow the DEC to initiate their Article 15 Process.╩ That will involve public comment and possibly public hearings, take a minimum of 90 days and possibly much longer.╩ It╩ may, or may not, result in approval of the application for demolition.╩ It gives us a couple of months to find a formula for saving the bridge.
Two years ago when we first began discussing demolition of the bridge the threat was very far off, and we thought the chances of saving the bridge were good.╩ Now that the threat of demolition has been as close as a few weeks away our prospects seem to have greatly improved, and yet there is still a very real possibility that the Coast Guard will prevail in its effort to coerce CSX to remove the bridge.
Right now we are working on several fronts:
╩╩ The steering committee is preparing for the DEC Article 15 process;╩
╩╩ We are meeting with lots of people including government representatives making the case to at least delay demolition while we examine the options;╩
╩╩ We are exploring the possibility of putting the bridge back in operation to carry pedestrians, vehicles, a trolley or light rail across the Genesee River between Charlotte and Irondequoit;
╩╩ The bridge could be preserved as a historic structure serving as a gateway welcoming visitors to Rochester with banners and lights;╩
╩╩ We are collecting signatures on petitions, and transcribing those names into a database.╩ We are well over 1,000 signatures and may have 1,500 by the time this update is posted on the web site.
╩╩ We are looking for an entity that could acquire the bridge from CSX.╩ That could be a not-for-profit, or the City of Rochester, Town of Irondequoit, or perhaps a new group.
What you can do to help:
╩╩ Download petitions and collect signatures.╩ We are going into an election season and public officials listen to people who represent voters.╩ (The database can be sorted by name, or by voting district)
╩╩ Contact your city councilman.╩ Tell them you want to save the bridge and ask them to help.╩ Send us an eMail and let us know who you talked to and what their reaction was.╩
╩╩ Write to Mayor Johnson.╩ He is a candidate for County Executive so he will be very sensitive to issues that might be a factor in the election.╩
╩╩ Talk to your friends in Charlotte and encourage them to think about the bridge as a local asset that could be the one feature that makes our harbor unique.╩ And the bridge can help move traffic across the river out of a very congested Charlotte.
╩╩ Write╩ a ŃLetter to the Editorń of the Democrat & Chronicle and describe why you think the bridge is important and ought to be saved.
╩╩ Send us your suggestions for reusing the bridge.╩ You may think of something that we missed.╩
for The Bridge Project Steering Committee