Local residents said Wednesday that they are concerned about access to emergency services and the lengthy detour that will be required when the state closes the Route 9P bridge after Labor Day in 2010.
The state Department of Transportation has changed its plans for the replacement of the 85-year-old bridge at the north end of Saratoga Lake.
Instead of keeping the old bridge open while the new bridge is built, the old bridge will be closed in September 2010 and the new steel girder bridge opened aaround Memorial Day in 2011.
DOT officials said the amended bridge replacement plan will save the state $5 million.
“These are the kind of decisions you know are not going to be popular decisions,” said DOT Regional Director Brian Rowback.
More than 50 people attended a public information meeting on the bridge replacement in Saratoga Springs City Hall on Wednesday.
Many at the meeting were from the town of Saratoga. These residents are worried that the state’s long proposed detour route on Route 9P around to the southern end of the lake to Route 9 and the Northway won’t be used by most local cars and trucks.
Instead, the locals will use Fitch Road to Staffords Bridge Road to Route 29, a much quicker way to get into Saratoga Springs.
Joseph Finn, who lives on Route 9P in the town of Saratoga, said he and his neighbors are concerned about the response time for ambulances and fire trucks.
“We are concerned about emergency services,” Finn said. “How fast can they get there?”
Richard Filkins, the DOT’s bridge project manager, said the DOT will be discussing the bridge closing and detour route with emergency squads and fire departments so they can plan the fastest routes during the eight-month bridge closure.
Residents of Fitch Road said they know that most people will use this narrow, rural road as the easiest way from the east side of Saratoga Lake to Saratoga Springs and the Northway.
“We don’t want a super highway there,” one resident said. He said the road is not built for heavy traffic.
Saratoga town Highway Superintendent David Hall said Fitch Road is only 18 feet wide and constructed with stone and oil.
There are horse farms and dairy farms on the rural road, with animals “constantly crossing the road,” Hall said.
“I will push for the town taxpayers to get money from the state to rebuild the road,” Hall said, in the event that non-official detour traffic damages the roadway.
Rowback said as the bridge design is developed and the bridge is finally closed, DOT traffic engineers will be taking a closer look at traffic flows and determine what it can do to mitigate traffic problems on the official detour route and the Fitch Road route.
Some residents living close to the bridge want to know if their property will be damaged by vibrations when the new bridge is constructed.
Thomas Hoffman, a DOT regional structural engineer, said the new bridge will be built using 120-foot-long concrete pilings that will be driven into the lake bottom to hold the bridge piers.
The pile drivers will be mounted on barges.
He said that when these long pilings are driven into the lake bottom there should be minimal impact on shoreline property.
“There will be no vibration effect,” Hoffman said. “[The pilings] should go down like a knife through butter.”
However, Hoffman said such long pilings haven’t been used that much in DOT’s Region 1, so their installation is one of the “wild cards” involved with the bridge replacement.
Filkins explained at the start of the meeting that in 2003 when the first bridge replacement plan was developed, the cost was $6 million. By 2008, this cost had risen to $17.9 million, due in part of increases in the cost of steel, concrete and asphalt, so the first plan was scrapped.
The new bridge replacement plan will cost about $12.6 million, Filkins said.
DOT officials said about 5,000 vehicles cross the Route 9P bridge during the summer months but far fewer use the bridge in the off-season and winter months.
Filkins said this is the reason the DOT decided to build the new bridge during the fall, winter and early spring months.
For more information about the bridge project, see www.nysdot.gov/route9pbridge.
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