ITHACA, N.Y.—In a city with plenty of bridges big and small, it requires significant effort to keep them in usable condition. With that goal in mind, the City of Ithaca is initiating plans for a nearly $6 million rehabilitation of the Stewart Avenue Bridge over Fall Creek, largely through funding from the federal government.

According to a memo from City Engineer Addisu Gebre, “this bridge project aims to preserve and prolong the existing structure’s service life by reducing the deterioration rate of the identified deficient bridge elements through cost-effective rehabilitation strategies.”

The Stewart Avenue bridge was completely replaced in the early 1950s and last rehabilitated in 2004. Since then, it has developed some structural deficiencies and its sidewalks are no longer compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Public Right-Of-Way Accessbility Guidelines (PROWAG), according to Gebre’s memo.

“The purpose of this project is to repair any structural deficiencies and extend the useful life of the existing structure in a cost-effective manner that minimizes future maintenance,” Gebre wrote.

The sidewalks will be widened to provide ADA-compliant pedestrian facilities. and the roadway approaches will be adjusted to “improve roadway geometry and sight lines where feasible”—a consistent complaint of regular drivers of the road.

The bridge rehabilitation will include addressing several noted but non-critical structural deficiencies, including deck joints, primary and secondary steel members, steel coatings, and bearings. A new lightweight deck system will be installed atop the bridge trusses to improve vehicle/bike ride quality, durability, curbing and sidewalk widths, according to the submitted documents.

The bridge will be closed to vehicle traffic during construction, using an off-site detour. However, pedestrian and bicycle traffic will still be able to cross in a narrow segment that will move as construction necessitates.

The biggest visual change to the bridge will be the wider sidewalks, which will widen from the current 3 feet, 10 inches to 5 feet wide. Driving lane width and under-road utility lines will remain the same size.

The Stewart Avenue Bridge rehab is currently in the Design Phase and the city is working with LaBella Associates to serve as a consultant on the project. The plan is to perform the bridge repairs and renovations from spring to fall 2025, and the city recommends a 1.6-mile detour along Thurston and University Avenues.

The $5.95 million project is largely funded through Federal Highway Performance Program and is designed to comply with NYS DOT guidelines. It is noted in the submission that an entirely new bridge would cost $9 million, and the city would prefer to avoid that because it would be harder to obtain both the local and federal funding needed. Plus, the bridge is not going to rehab itself in the meantime.

Should anyone be interested, questions or comments concerning the project can be directed to Gebre at no later than September 8.

Brian Crandall reports on housing and development for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached at