Rochester, N.Y. – It’s been part of the scenery at the Port of Rochester for more than a century. To some, the Hojack Swing Bridge is a beautiful landmark, but to others, it’s a piece of junk.
Soon, it could be a piece of history.
CSX has applied for a bevy of permits to demolish the bridge, saying it is under orders from the U.S. Coast Guard to remove the structure. The Coast Guard confirms it considers the bridge a safety hazard.
“CSX is working with federal state and local agencies as it prepares to comply with a U.S. Coast Guard order to remove the Hojack Swing Bridge on the Genesee River. Planning is still in progress and no other specific details are available at this time,” said CSX spokesman Bob Sullivan in an email.
In documents laying out the project to bidders, CSX said it wants the bridge removed by March 2012. It does not specify a cost. Some of the rail ties may contain asbestos.
There has long been debate about removing the structure. In a 2003 New York Times article
, then-Mayor William Johnson called the bridge "a monstrosity covered with moss" that he didn't want visitors from Toronto arriving on the fast ferry to encounter.
Built in 1905, the Hojack Swing Bridge used to serve farms along the lakeshore. It stopped carrying revenue rail cars in 1978, according to a report prepared by the Army Corps of Engineers in 2001 about the bridge’s historical value. The last time the swing bridge was rotated was in the mid-90s. The study says the state declared the bridge eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. The report recommended preserving the bridge’s value through displays of artifacts and markers, but did not recommend saving the entire structure.
“This is part of Rochester’s history,” said Richard Rosen, a local preservationist and architect. “I think it is foolhardy for CSX to demolish the thing until someone with experience in destination venues has had a chance to look at this.”
“It’s a great conversation piece. I have probably 5 to 10 conversations daily with our customers about it,” said Marcus Germonto, general manager of the Pelican’s Nest restaurant.
"It’s pretty decrepit, but it is a landmark,” said Terry Commins, a diner.
“I think it’s too bad. It’s been in the river for all my life. It’s just a piece of the river," said boater Mark Thomas.
“That thing is a navigational hazard, always has been,” said boater Jack Kearney.
CSX has not gotten approvals to tear down the bridge. It needs the green light from the city, Department of Environmental Conservation, Army Corps of Engineers and Coast Guard for its demolition plan.