Bridge to … ?

For years I’ve noticed a blue bridge crossing Interstate 81 near Johnson Technical Institute (now Johnson College). It occasionally crossed my mind that I’d never been across this bridge, that I’d never seen anyone driving on this bridge, and that I didn’t know where it went (and that, really, it didn’t seem likely that it could lead much of anywhere). Mostly I assumed I was just missing the details when traveling at highway speeds, but I was still intrigued.

Last Summer, a surveyor acquaintance of mine who was working in the area for several weeks called to mention that he and his crew were in the process of setting new benchmarks along the Interstate. In the midst of the conversation, he mentioned that during his time here, he had found some of the benchmarks in the area. When I mentioned that I’d found many if not most of them but was reluctant to try any along the Interstate, he described one on a bridge over the highway that, so he said, was easily accessible. As soon as he described it, I knew he had visited my “bridge to nowhere”. He mentioned that the mark was very easy to access and to find, and that it was behind a college; I made the mistake of assuming it could be accessed from the Johnson College property itself.

On this beautifully sunny, but wickedly cold and windy day Rich and I, after a filling but delicious lunch at China Palace, decided to do some exploring by car rather than on foot. Our first stop was the Johnson College campus, which we explored quite thoroughly by car but were unable to reach the bridge. A swing around the block took us one street up the hill from the outer reaches of the campus, and before us, just beyond the Career Technology Center, stretching out over the Interstate, was our goal. A school bus was pulled up nearly to the edge of the bridge; it looked empty so we parked behind and to the side, and headed out with our maps and official-looking LRCA documents in hand. We first checked the benchmark on the southwest corner of the bridge, and then walked out across (well, above) the Interstate. The bridge is posted but not gated or fenced and it’s possible to drive right across and straight into the back of Staples’ parking lot if you don’t mind crossing an earth berm (as apparently some other motorists or ATVers have not minded) and driving on dirt and grass for a few yards. Neat! We stood admiring the view for a moment, then returned to our vehicle as the school bus started up and backed out of its spot. (It’s probably a good thing we didn’t attempt to cross the bridge by car, though I was tempted.)

Many questions remain … why was this bridge constructed, at a time when nothing other than forest existed on the other side? Why was this not connected to Staples’ parking lot (when it was built), thus creating another viable route into the mall area? Why is the bridge still standing if there are no plans for its use?

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