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The only remedy is in constructing a draw of suitable width, 80 feet at least, in lieu of the present narrow one of 45 feet, farther to the westward, thereby straightening the passage-way for vessels.
Yours, with respect,
E. A. GROUT,
President of Town Council, Pawtucket, R. I.
L. D. HORTON.
REPORT OF LIEUTENANT COLONEL WALTER M'FARLAND, CORPS OF
ENGINEER OFFICE, UNITED STATES ARMY,
New Haven, Conn., January 14, 1885. GENERAL: Under section 2 of the act of Congress relating to rivers and harbors, approved July 5, 1884, I have the honor to report as follows
upon bridges and other works which interfere with free and safe navigation, all in the engineer district of which I have charge, extending from the headwaters of the Hudson River to the eastern end of Long Island Sound.
Very respectfully, your obedient servant,
Brig. Gen. JOHN NEWTON,
Chief of Engineers, U. S. A.
REPORT UPON BRIDGES, CAUSEWAYS, OR STRUCTURES WHICH INTERFERE WITH FREE AND SAFE NAVIGATION OCCURRING OR EXISTING IN THE ENGINEER DISTRICT EXTENDING FROM THE HEADWATERS OF THE HUDSON RIVER TO THE EASTERN END OF LONG ISLAND SOUND.
ENGINEER OFFICE, UNITED STATES ARMY, New Haven, Conn., December 31, 1884. The only instances of this kind which have come under my notice in this district are those which occur in streams flowing into Long Island Sound.
Complaint has been made to me of the following bridges, namely: Those belonging to the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad Company, (1) at Cos Cob, Conn.; (2) Bridgeport, Conn.; (3) the Housatonic River, Connecticut; (4) New Haven, on the Quinnipiac River,, Connecticut; (5) Middletown, on the Connecticut River, Connecticut; (6) the city bridges at Bridgeport; (7, 8) the city and the Tomlinson Bridges, at New Haven, Conn.
The complaints against the railroad bridges crossing the Housatonic and Connecticut rivers (3 and 5) are that the under-water part of the piers at the draws projects so far into the stream, and into what appears to be and ought to be a clear way, that the safety of vessels passing through the draw is endangered, and one or two vessels have already been seriously damaged by striking these hidden projections.
The remedy for this is the breaking off of these projecting parts and the placing of fender-piles to prevent passing vessels from coming in contact with the piers. Any projection of this sort, or any batter to
the faces of the draw-piers, causes a sensible reduction in the width of the draw-span, making it less than it appears and is presumed to be, and probably less than the law under which it was constructed requires it to be.
The complaints against the railroad bridge and the city bridge at New Haven (4 and 7), crossing the Quinnipiac River, are that they are both without draws, and so prevent 6 miles of the Quinnipiac River which are navigable, and were formerly used, from being any longer used. The city bridge formerly existing there had a draw in it. The new one has not, nor has the railroad bridge, which crosses near it. It is evident that by these constructions the right of the property owners above these bridges to the free navigation of this part of the Quinnipiac River has been violated. The remedy is to require the city of New Haven and the railroad company to put draws in these bridges, without which they are obstructions to the navigable waters of the United States, according to the decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States:
The complaint against the Tomlinson Bridge (8), which crosses the mouth of the Quinnipiac, is that its draw is narrow and dangerous from the strong current through it, produced by the contraction of the natural water-way from 1,400 to 310 feet, caused by the construction of a solid causeway 920 feet long, and five clumsy piers, taking up 170 feet more. The effect of all this is exceedingly bad, as it prevents the free inflow and outflow of the tides, and nearly destroys the usefulness of the Quinnipiac River above the bridge as a tidal basin. The obstruction to the passage of the water is so great that the bottom between the piers has been scoured to a depth of 18 feet, where the normal depth should be but 9 feet, and I have seen the water on one side of the causeway standing a foot higher than it was on the other side at the same time.
This bridge is owned by a bridge company, but is, I understand, now in the possession of or controlled by the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. On account of the difficulty of the passage of the draw, boats are every now and then capsized there, in consequence of being thrown against the piers by the violent current. The bridge is in a dilapidated condition, and ought to be removed and replaced by a more modern construction, which would permit the free passage of the tides, and which should be provided with a sufficient draw. It now constitutes an obstruction to a navigable channel of the United States, as defined in the decisions of the Supreme Court and in the act of Congress under which this report is being made. Its piers are three times as thick as they should be.
The complaints against the railroad bridges at Cos Cob (1) and Bridgeport (2) are that the draws are managed in such a way that they practically close the streams which they cross to navigation. I inclose a copy of the complaint received concerning the Bridgeport Bridge, from which it appears that under the railroad regulations this bridge is kept closed about twelve hours out of the twenty-four, and about ten of these hours are between daylight and dark. The same complaint is made about the Cos Cob Bridge.
Congress has repeatedly by law authorized the construction of drawbridges over the navigable waters of the United States, so that a draw-bridge is not to be regarded in itself as an obstruction to navigation in a legal sense; but it is evident that although its construction may be authorized by law, yet it may be so managed after construction as to impede navigation unnecessarily, and thus become such an ob
struction to the navigable water which it crosses as to demand its abatement. The traffic over the railroad to which this bridge belongs is very large, from sixty to seventy passenger trains passing it every twenty-four hours, while the number of vessels which have to pass through the draw daily is quite small. It is plain that the larger interest can not give way to the lesser one, and the only point that needs to be determined here, then, is whether the larger interest shows due respect to the lesser and does what it can to avoid obstructing it, or whether, secure in its power, this wealthy railroad corporation disregards its obligations towards its weaker competitor, a part of whose rights it has already taken away under the protection of the law and obstructs its operations.
Most of those engaged in navigation at Cos Cob and Bridgeport, whose vessels must pass these draws, are men of humble means, who must make their living out of these vessels, and who can not defend themselves against a rich corporation like this if it chooses to oppress them, which it may readily do by omitting to take the means necessary for facilitating the passage of their vessels through the draw. The accompanying copy of the complaint from Bridgeport shows what diffi culties are encountered by tows attempting to pass the draws there. The complaint makes no mention, however, of another source of trouble that is felt particularly at Cos Cob. Here there is so little water that unless a vessel goes through at a high tide she can not go at all, and if when high tide occurs the bridge is closed, the vessel must often wait for the next high tide, and if this occurs after dark, she must wait again for the next one oecurring in daylight or take the chance of grounding in the dark, and so it may be delayed twenty-four hours, and if the cargo consists of garden produce, as is often the case, intended for the New York market, it is often rendered unsalable by the delay, and the owner and carrier suffer the loss. This is, of course, no reason why the operation of a great line of travel should be obstructed or interfered with, but it is a very good reason why the corporation that manages it in their own interest should pay for the damage which the pursuit of their own interests causes to those who originally had a right to the free and unobstructed use of these waters.
The remedy for this difficulty is this: The draws should be of the most approved form, to be quickly opened and closed by steam-power. The regulations requiring them to be closed ten minutes before a train is due should be rescinded, and such signals should be established as would indicate to an approaching train, day or night, whether the draw is open or not, as is done on other railroads.
The vessels should have the prior right of passage, as trains would seldom be delayed by them, and when delayed the time lost would commonly be made up, while with the incessant passage of trains the vessels must be delayed hours, and may be delayed a day, time which they can not make up, and which must prove a serious loss to men who are not able commonly to bear it.
In being permitted to construct bridges across navigable streams, railroad companies acquire valuable rights, which materially increase their revenues, while shippers suffer a corresponding loss. It is only fair that this loss should be borne by those who reap the benefit, which might be done by requiring the company to pay the owners of vessels at established rates for all delays caused by the non-opening of their draws when required, or by requiring them to keep tugs at hand to help these vessels through the draws. The real question here is whether the law will compel a rich and powerful corporation to deal fairly and
justly with those who have already been by law compelled to surrender to it a part of their rights, ostensibly for the public good but practically for the good of the corporation only.
The complaint against the city bridges at Bridgeport (6) is the same as that against the railroad bridge there. The only difference here is that the city corporation takes the place of the railroad corporation in the preceding case. It may be left to the city of Bridgeport to decide what is best for their city interests; but if for the good of their community they find it expedient to obstruct the navigable waters of the United States, they should pay for the damage that they do to those who are entitled to the unobstructed use of those waters, and they should, moreover, provide every facility for passing vessels through the draws with as little delay as possible.
I submit herewith copies of the written complaints against the Bridgeport and New Haven city and railroad bridges, and the railroad bridge across the Connecticut at Middletown.
COMPLAINT AGAINST THE BRIDGE AT BRIDGEPORT, CONNECTICUT.
BRIDGEPORT, CONN., August 21,
SIR: In response to your circular asking for information concerning bridges, causeways, or structures that are an obstruction to navigation, we wish to write you in behalf of the Messrs. Beardsley, who do an extensive towing business in this vicinity. On May 17, 1884, we wrote the honorable Secretary of War upon this same subject. Whether this letter was referred to you or not we do not know, but take the liberty of giving several extracts from said letter, as the troubles and dangers complained of therein still exist and flourish in all their original vigor. "The common council of Bridgeport has passed an ordinance relative to draw-bridges by which all the four draws are closed from 6.40 to 7 a. m., from 12 to 12.20 p. m., from 12.40 to 1 p. m., and 6 to 6.20 p. m. Under the city's orders, the draws are closed one hour and twenty minutes during the busiest portions of the day, when boats wish to be placed at their docks to be unloaded. Between 12 and 1 o'clock the draws can be opened for the benefit of navigation only twenty minutes, and, inasmuch as a tow after passing through the first bridge could not reach the last before the twenty minutes of grace has expired, it is an actual obstruction for the whole hour.
"The New York and New Haven Railroad has also given to the draw-tender the following order, to wit, being number 49 of special instructions: No draw shall be opened within ten minutes of the time that a train is due, nor when a train is in sight or within hearing.' This draw-bridge is used both by the New York and New Haven Railroad and the Naugatuck Railroad, and about seventy trains cross it daily, so that the draw is closed by the railroad company eleven hours and forty minutes during the twenty-four hours of the day, which, with the time it is kept closed by the city, makes thirteen hours' time during which no tow nor boat can pass through the bridge. This is computed for the whole twenty-four hours, and most of the eleven hours left come in the night time, when the trains are much less frequent and when no towing is required.
"Between 6 o'clock in the morning and 6 in the afternoon fully fifty trains cross the bridge at short intervals, keeping the draw closed eight hours and twenty minutes, and, adding the time it is kept closed by the eity, we find that it is closed nearly ten hours out of the twelve. Of course, if a train is late, the draw is kept closed until it is past.
"The two hours left during which the draws may be opened is scattered through the twelve hours in such small portions that it is almost impossible to make a continuous trip. If there were but one draw, there would be but little trouble, as a tug with a tow could time its start so as to get through without having to wait; but passing through one bridge, and having nearly reached the next, it may have become within ten minutes of the time when a train is due or the city's order may interpose, and the draw, after having been opened, is quickly shut and passage is barred. Then the trouble begins. The tug, of course, can stop and control itself, but a heavily-loaded schooner or barge acquires a momentum which makes it exceed
ingly difficult to stop it when the draw is suddenly closed against its passage. It is only by the most strenuous exertions that the tugs prevent their tows from either crushing into themselves or dashing into the bridges, and hardly a day passes without a narrow escape from a serious and perhaps fatal accident, the bowsprits of sloops and schooners having several times nearly pierced the pilot-houses of the tugs, which have been unable either to get out of the way themselves or to stop their tows. But if they succeed in stopping the craft in tow without loss of life, limb, or property, they have to wait from ten minutes to half an hour for the draw to reopen. In the mean time they are drifting about in the narrow channel or get aground on the shallow mud flats, and by the time they get straightened out and get under headway again the chances are that either the bridge they have been trying to get through, or at the best the next one, will be closed; so that in this way, independently of the danger incurred, it requires two or three hours to do what could otherwise be done in half an hour."
For the past week the draw of the bridge over the Housatonic River has been kept closed, to the great detriment of those engaged in the towing business, as well as consignees and ship-owners.
The bridge contractors keep the draw closed not because it can not be opened, but because it is a little more convenient for them in the prosecution of their work.
There is also a very dangerous obstruction to navigation at the east pier of stonework supporting the draw to the center bridge. Messrs. Beardsley had heretofore, in going through the draw, injured and nearly sunk one boat loaded with coal, and roughly scraped several others, upon an unknown object.
They then employed Captain Scott, the diver, to examine the pier and see what caused the trouble. He went down in his diving armor, and found that the lower part of one of the corners projected out into the channel 2 or 3 feet beyond the upper portion. Evidently the brilliant genius who planned the work found that if the pier should be carried up as started it would encroach too far into the channel, so he merely dropped back with the upper part and left this sharp triangular projection to tear open the sides of any boats coming in contact with it. We understand that this corner is visible only at an unusually low tide, and, as no towing can be done then, its presence there was not suspected till the diver made his report. Any one going through would be justified in supposing he could run close to the pier, whereas he really can not go within 3 feet of it without wrecking or injuring his boat. The city authorities have been notified of this obstruction, and have been requested to remove it, but although the diver says it can be easily and cheaply blown off, nothing has been done to remove it.
This projecting corner, and especially the trouble and delay experienced in getting through the draws, are a source of great vexation to both those who do the towing and consignees, who are delayed in getting their boats to their docks. Auy relief that can be granted by the Government authorities will be duly appreciated.
Very respectfully, yours,
Col. WALTER MCFARLAND,
United States Engineer.
HOLLISTER & KELSEY,
COMPLAINT AGAINST THE RAILROAD AND CITY BRIDGES AT NEW HAVEN, AND OTHER BRIDGES CROSSING THE QUINNIPIAC RIVER, CONNECTICUT.
NEW HAVEN, CONN., August 20, 1884.
DEAR SIR: Having noticed in the New Haven Evening Register of a recent date that you desire information, among other instances, as to whether any bridges, etc., now erected or in process of erection do or will interfere with free and safe navigation, and, if so, a report of the best mode of altering such bridges so as to prevent such obstructions, we desire to call your attention to the bridge crossing the Quinnipiac River at Grand street; to the New London Railroad bridge, located a few rods north of it, and to other bridges on said river, a mile or so still further north. Those structures form a total obstruction to navigation north of Grand street for sailing-vessels and steamers, and it is our opinion that they, or at least the first two mentioned, should be provided with suitable draws without delay. Quinnipiac is a navigable river for 6 miles or more north of Grand street. The Grand Street Bridge was formerly a draw-bridge, and was used as such for many years, about half the vessels coming into the river passing through the draw up to the time when it was closed. It was an unwieldy affair, and was closed by the town of New Haven about sixty years since, when it was understood that a good draw would be put in soon. Ever since that time the town has persistently refused to construct a draw, although often requested to do so.