VARNA, N.Y.—The Town of Dryden had been hopeful that someone or some organization would step forward and adopt the pony pratt truss bridge that crosses Fall Creek on Freese Road.

But without any suitable takers responding to the ad initially posted in February,  Dan Lamb, the town’s Deputy Supervisor, said Dryden will be going ahead with plans to replace the structure.  

“We’re done soliciting offers. We’ve really done our due diligence to have another entity take this bridge, and I’m satisfied with that. I think we had a very open and public process with this bridge,” said Lamb. 

While the Freese Road Bridge has remained an iconic part of the Hamlet of Varna’s character for around 130 years, it has aged into disrepair, and was closed in December 2021 over safety concerns. Its floor beams and steel deck and diagonal facade are rusted out, said Lamb. “It’s not in good condition. If it was in good condition, we would keep it. Whoever takes it has got a $100,000 to $200,000 job just getting it in shape for reuse.”

This cost underpins the reason why the Town of Dryden’s search to give the bridge a new home went without finding one. On top of the cost of getting the bridge up to a usable safety standard, the Freese Road Bridge is also eligible for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, which would require potential owners to adhere to a higher standard of maintenance. 

The prolonged closure of the Freese Road bridge has blocked an important traffic artery for residents in the rural parts of the Town of Dryden and surrounding area heading into or out of Ithaca. Lamb said that the Town of Dryden’s estimates show that there were about 2000 crossings a day at the bridge when it was open. 

With the plan now going into motion for the Town of Dryden to replace the bridge, Lamb said that construction is anticipated to start in early 2025.

Plans to replace the bridge will see the crossing remain a one-lane affair, but with the addition of walkways to improve pedestrian and bike safety. The new bridge will also retain the truss facade of the current bridge. “So it will have a historic flare to it,” said Lamb.

David Weinstein, a Varna resident and local aficionado of the Freese Road Bridge, said that he’s happy that the replacement will be paying homage to the current structure, which he said is built with a rare construction design. 

Instead of rivets, the bridge makers used pins to hold the trusses together, said Weinstein. “People will be able to see these features of the truss bridge, the historic features, and be reminded every time they pass the bridge of the wonderful engineering that people well over a century ago were able to come up with to fix the problem of how you put a bridge together to cross a big creek.”

“I’m an older person, but I really think it’s valuable for people to see the history that is here,” said Weinstein.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is Senior Reporter for The Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn