New York Roads - NY 5S/Temp. I-90, Ft. Hunter

Temporary I-90, Fort Hunter


In April 1987, the New York Thruway (I-90) bridge across the Schoharie Creek in Fort Hunter collapsed, killing ten people and severing a vital transportation lifeline for the state. The disruption to commercial traffic was especially severe, with the Thruway being by far the fastest and least mountainous of any route across central New York. In an effort to reduce the pain felt by everyone relying on this link, New York arrived at a unique solution, pressing a disused railroad bridge into service, moving NY 5S over onto it, and reducing the Thruway to 2 lanes across the bridge that had carried (and now again carries) 5S. I had originally heard that the Thruway stayed as 4 lanes, with 5S extensively detoured on either side, but I'm glad that Chris Clark has seen evidence that matches what I'd think is the best solution. Chris also said that when the NY 5S bridge was more recently rebuilt, the railroad bridge once again became 5S for a few years. Too bad this removes my original understanding of the uniqueness of running a toll road on a railroad bridge.
Temporary connections were constructed on either end of the downed bridge and the railroad bridge was rehabbed, paved, and brought up to full NYSDOT state highway standards for its brief service as NY 5S. Although it took over two months before the new arrangement could be opened, it was a welcome arrival and served well from June into December. Finally, I-90 was relocated back onto the first half of its replacement bridge, NY 5S was restored on its alignment, and the modernized railroad bridge was converted into a hiking and snowmobile trail. As a further delight, the eastern roadway connecting I-90 to NY 5S has also been converted into a trail, and despite the several inches of snow blocking a clear view of the current state of both of the temporary roadways, I have followed them both faithfully. For a greener view of the I-90 connector, showing the temporary hillside drainage, follow the Upstate New York Roads link at bottom. My own photos are below:


Walking east on the former railroad bed toward the temporary NY 5S bridge. This is a lively snowmobile trail during the winter months, so hikers beware who follow in my bootsteps.


Heading west away from the bridge the way I just came. After the guiderail ends, temporary I-90 went through the fields to the south back to the freeway in the background of the second photo. Pine trees were replanted where NY 5S swung back into its alignment, but because none of the other trees are evergreen, they stick out as a reminder of what transpired.


A lonely pier and abutment just to the north testify to what was once either a rival railroad line or a spur track.


Much farther up the river, captured well with zoom in the second photo, is a third abutment! NY 5S runs on the south side of the Erie Canal, and just as the Thruway today follows the Canal across New York, so once did as many railroads as there was traffic to be carried by them. NY 5 and 5S, and US 20 to the south, then took enough traffic away (even before the Thruway came along) to leave zero rail lines where there once were three.


Where old meets new - closer looks at concrete and deck joints set right on the bare bridge deck (no rails or ties left at that point, just some steel substructure), and how NYSDOT's traditional box guiderail was bolted and welded directly onto the aging truss.


With NY 5S to the right, I continue eastward onto the secondary bridge, just a simple high-walled trestle. More concrete pokes through the snow.



Heading eastward along temporary NY 5S back to where it crossed over to permanent 5S.


Looking back at the two bridges just before leaving the NY 5S alignment and heading up the temporary 4-lane I-90.


Across NY 5S, through the open gate, and onto the next section of snowmobile trail, Temporary I-90 as it curves away from the Schoharie Creek bridges.


Snowmobile/hiking trails in this area get state-issue Interstate-facsimile shields; Temporary I-90 is now Corridor I-7B.


All the way up the hill in one fell swoop to where the temporary alignment, instead of curving up and to the left, curved down and a little less to the left, rejoining the highway on the other side of the fence and down the embankment.


Another shot of the two bridges, from near the top of the temporary alignment.


Now back down the hill, curving ever eastward as I approach NY 5S again.

Onto permanent I-90
Onto the rest of NY 5S
Into Fort Hunter

The Thruway Bridge Collapse on J.P. Wing's Upstate New York Roads
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