Erosion continues to eat away stone pillars supporting an abandoned railroad bridge over the Susquehanna River, prompting officials to use words like “perilous” to describe the danger looming if the span collapses and creates a dam.
Luzerne County officials say they are monitoring the structure and proceeding with a plan to tear it down, possibly as early as this spring.
The bridge along Route 92 in Exeter Township is owned by Duryea resident Leo A. Glodzik III, who faces theft charges, state liens totalling more than $532,000 and a civil suit alleging “insider trading” in his failed attempt to buy the Old River Road Bakery from Wilkes-Barre.
After years of concerns the bridge would fall down and increase flooding, county council agreed to fund the bridge demolition in July using part of a $10 million federal flood recovery allocation.
County assistant solicitor Stephen Menn said Friday a representative of Glodzik’s company, LAG, contacted him after the council vote to say Glodzik would complete the demolition himself or sell the span to a company for tear-down.
Menn said that option would be better because the government funding could be used for other flood-related projects, but Glodzik did not take any follow-up action.
Menn wrote a letter to Glodzik the end of last year requesting his demolition plan and schedule, but Glodzik has not responded.
“I never heard back from him, so if he’s not doing anything, the county may have to go forward,” Menn said.
The county law office is discussing what legal action must be taken to gain possession of the bridge, he said.
Based on an engineer’s estimate, the county earmarked $614,600 to demolish the bridge, in part because a causeway must be built on the river for equipment access. If the project costs less, the difference will be allocated to other flood recovery projects approved by council.
County Community Development Director Andrew Reilly, who is overseeing the special flood recovery funding, said money won’t be available for the bridge and other infrastructure work until a contract is finalized with the federal government in several months.
The county is proceeding with engineering plans over the winter with the goal of bidding and completing the projects starting this spring, he said. The $10 million allocation will cover lingering infrastructure damage in several municipalities caused by Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
County Flood Protection Authority Executive Director Chris Belleman said Friday the bridge is in “perilous condition” and must be removed, though he does not believe it is in danger of immediate collapse.
However, he cautioned another “significant and forceful” flood could create enough pressure to compromise one or more pillars, especially if the water carries trees or buildings.
Belleman said he periodically checks the bridge when he’s in that area and would alert county officials if it appeared ready to collapse.
“I’d be screaming for action,” Belleman said.
An emergency declaration would be required to demolish a privately owned structure.
Glodzik bought the bridge from the county Redevelopment Authority for $500 in 2007, with plans to dismantle the span for scrap value.
The authority inherited the bridge, which was not open to vehicular traffic, as part of a railroad acquisition, and authority officials said they wanted it torn down because it was deteriorating and not linked to active rail service. The span connects the Coxton Rail Yards to the Harding section of Exeter Township.
Glodzik could not be reached for comment Friday.
In August 2012, Glodzik told a reporter he was negotiating a deal to sell the bridge to a scrap company. He said his engineers inspected the bridge and concluded it was not going to fall. “That bridge will be there a hundred years from now,” he said at the time.