Bridge project nearly done; ceremony to be set

JOHNSTOWN – Even though the newly-replaced North Perry Street bridge reopened for traffic last November, an official said Tuesday a few more weeks of work are needed to complete the project.

The city has been working closely with the state Department of Transportation for about two years on the $2.4 million project – the largest bridge-replacement project ever done in the city.

The Common Council voted in December to extend the completion date of the contract for main contractor D.H. Smith Co. of Clayville, Oneida County, until June 15.

“Last year, we did the base and binder,” Utica-based DOT Public Information Officer James Piccola said Tuesday. “There’s probably a few more weeks of work [left].”

Piccola, the project manager, said he will soon discuss what remains of the project with city officials. He said a sidewalk on the east side of the bridge, as well as final paving and landscaping still need to be done.

D.H. Smith has been hampered somewhat by colder conditions in this early part of the spring, but probably prefers not to take until June 15 to complete the project, Piccola said.

“I would say the contractor would like to be done as soon as it could,” Piccola said.

Local officials decided to replace the 30-foot-long bridge over the Cayadutta Creek after DOT in 2008 red-flagged the deteriorating stone-arch structure between Smith and Washington streets.

D.H. Smith is being paid $1.83 million for its work, but Piccola said the company won’t be paid until the project is done.

Other factors pushed the total project cost to about $2.4 million.

The project started in spring 2012, and motorists in the heart of Johnstown had to be detoured around the construction site most of the year.

Federal Highway Administration money is paying for 80 percent of the project, and DOT is paying 15 percent. The city’s share of the total cost is estimated at about $100,000.

Meanwhile, Piccola said, no date has been set yet for a ceremony planned by DOT to mark completion of the project and commemorate the massive July 9, 1889, flood that damaged an earlier incarnation of the bridge. Five people lost their lives in that disaster, which happened just a few weeks after the more famous flood that killed more than 2,000 people in Johnstown, Pa.

DOT, Mayor Sarah Slingerland and City Historian Noel Levee have said the ceremony will be sometime this spring. Slingerland said the construction project was able to recover the original keystone from that era, and it will be part of the ceremony.

Levee said DOT plans to put up a traditional blue state historical marker at the site. He said the city also will display the keystone the builder had put in at the bridge in 1878. He said a railroad tie was found during construction in the days when a horse-drawn trolley would use the bridge.

But Levee said local research into the bridge determined the initials “MJA” on the keystone stood for bridge builder Michael J. Argersinger, who died in Johnstown in 1892. Levee said he is researching Argersinger, and if anyone has memorabilia related to him, they should call Levee at 762-7419 or write to him at 1 E. Green St., Johnstown, NY 12095.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at