Erie Canal Truss Bridges to be Removed

Peet Rd. Bridge over the Erie Canal. Photo taken by Marc Scotti

The bridges at Wruck Road and Peet Street are scheduled to be removed sometime this year after being abandoned for many years.

600 kilometers of boat traffic between Buffalo and Albany and one of the oldest canals in the country. Those are the characteristics of the Erie Canal. Built in 1821 and modified several times over the past 180 years, the canal still serves as a shortcut from the Great Lakes region at Buffalo and Cleveland to the Atlantic Ocean at New York City, via the Hudson River. Hundreds of bridges, many dating back to the early 1900s can still be seen, let alone crossed by vehicular traffic.

That is all except two of them in Niagara County. And they are now about to be history. The crossings at Peet Street and Wruck Road, located between Locksport and Middlesport are identical in its appearance and history. Both are double-intersecting Warren through truss bridges, measuring exactly 148 feet long, and 14.8 feet wide. Both were built in 1910, at the time of the canal’s widening. Judging by the other bridges built using similar designs, it was most likely the work of the Empire Bridge Company, a locally known bridge builder.

Both these bridges have been closed for over five years now, with signs of extensive deterioration of the piers and approach spans. The Wruck Road crossing has been closed since September 2007. Yet judging by the photos taken of the two bridges, the truss superstructure still remains in excellent shape, which has contributed to a debate on what to do with the two bridges. The New York State DOT wants the bridge removed for liability reasons. There’s no use for it over the canal, esp. as only a couple families live nearby but can use alternative crossings. Opponents to the plan claim that the plan is a waste of taxpayer money and the value of scrap metal far outweighs the benefits of restoring the bridges for pedestrian use, an argument that has been questionable for some time.

Yet with the two trusses being in excellent shape, there are two alternatives for restoring them: 1. Restore them in place but with new piers and decking or 2. Dismantle them and relocate them to places to be reused for recreational purposes. Both these options are cost-effective and would encourage residents to know more about these two bridges and their connections with the Erie Canal. Question is whether tourism will trump the tear-down of the two bridges for the price of a commodity that has been unstable since 2008.

At the present time, the contract was being let out for bridge removal, yet even if the contractor accepted the job, it has not been etched in stone. This means opinions on what to do with the two bridges can still be voiced, let alone interest in purchasing the truss spans before they are eventually cut up and shipped away for scrap (Rumor has it that the spans will be cut into half and transported away by barge.) And while it appears that the bridge removal may not happen before the summer at the earliest, now is the time to save a piece of history that can be reused for the price much less than for demolition.  If interested, please contact Marc Scotti at NYSDOT at this e-mail address:

The Chronicles will keep you informed on the situation with the two bridges as it plans to tour the Erie Canal Region with some bridges in similar situations as the two here being brought to the attention of the readers.

Wruck Road Bridge. Photo taken by James Baughn in 2009

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One Response to Erie Canal Truss Bridges to be Removed

  1. Steven W Lindsey says:

    The Geography of Nowhere—James Howard Kunsler.

    Rather sad the indifference to heritage exhibited by those residing in Upper Sate New York. I once fought a losing battle to save the last wood canal house ( 1819 ) associated with the construction of the original canal as well as the site of L Frank Baum’s first drama… No one cared. A nondescript pocket park replete with Norway maples replaced it. See: http://www.preservationnation.org/magazine/911/one-of-the-erie-canals-last.html

    More recent demolitions include the razing of St. Patrick’s of Watervliet last year, now a Price Chopper box store.

    Upper State New York is in free fall. Fading in a less dramatic way than Detroit but still losing ground steadily. The many demolitions and razings reveal a culture in systemic decay.

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