May 30, 2023

The Exposed Aqueduct Bridge

Posted on May 1, 2010 by in Irvington

Station Road Aqueduct Tunnel

Removing trees from the viaduct creates danger to the hikers and joggers above.

Vegetation growing from the stone-faced portion of the eastern slope wall of the viaduct South of Irvington Main Street was cleared in the Spring 2010. This created some exposure to life ending falls from the concerned citizens who walk along the Aqueduct trail.

The clearing was done to prevent trees from wrenching out stones as they grow and to prevent wind blown trees from tearing the structure apart.

According to Steven Oaks from the State Historic Preservation Office, the goal was to both preserve the structure and prevent trees and stones from sliding down the sides, injuring folks below.

“The contractor was very careful to remove only those trees growing from the stone-faced side,” Oaks wrote in an email to concerned citizens, “The stones stop at a level about six or seven feet below the flat top of the structure– there is a lesser slope from the top of the stones to the top of the trail. In this area the trees were to remain to provide a barrier, both actual and visual, that would keep people on the trail.”

However, in one area, now fenced off by a orange construction fencing, the contractor accessed the stone-faced sides of the bridge with ropes and trampled the vegetation so thin that for days there was absolutely nothing to prevent walkers from falling hundreds of feet to the street below.

The extreme exposure to a deadly fall from walkers, bikers, children, and pets who use the trail above apparently led to complaints. And then came the plastic fencing, which serves more as warning tape than an actual device to prevent a stumbling walker.

Falls are still possible along the remainder of the eastern dirt slope, even though more vegetation exists there. This only serves to hide the fact that the trees were removed below and that walkers are only a few feet away from certain death.

“My expectation is the brush in the area of the orange fence will regenerate very quickly,” Oaks says, “creating the same sort of barrier that remains along the rest of the viaduct.” No additional brush is scheduled to be removed from that side of the structure. The orange plastic fence will remain until the summer vegetation thickens.

“In the past, both in the ’80s and ’90s, both sides were stripped clean from bottom to top. There was a lot of concern back then, but alas no one ever lost their balance and toppled off the structure,” Oaks said. The sign advising cyclists to dismount and walk over the bridge, located at the northern end of the viaduct and covered with graffiti, seems to be an artifact from that era.

Oaks promised to replace the orange fence with a wooden fence, again temporary, if the vegetation doesn’t fill in to do the job.

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