Batchellerville Bridge replacement gets new push

It’s a decades-old bridge across a wide lake in a remote location, physically deteriorating but vita

It’s a decades-old bridge across a wide lake in a remote location, physically deteriorating but vital to the local economy, badly in need of replacement.

But this isn’t the now-notorious arch bridge at Crown Point, but a lower-profile structure — literally — located in the Adirondack foothills of northwestern Saratoga County.

The Batchellerville Bridge will mark its 80th anniversary this year, with hope by everyone involved that the cement-and-steel causeway-style span will finally be replaced starting later this year, after decades of effort.

“I’ve spent the majority of my time in public office trying to get this bridge replaced,” said a frustrated Town Supervisor Jean Raymond, who’s now been in office 22 years.

The state Department of Transportation hopes to advertise for the latest round of construction bids in late April or early May, said Peter VanKeuren, a DOT spokesman. That could lead to a contract award by late June, if an additional $10 million or so for the project can be found, he said. Construction would take about two years.

“We’re encouraged to see things moving forward with Batchellerville,” VanKeuren said.

State officials think a new design, lower steel prices and different economic conditions will significantly lower the cost of a replacement bridge, which was $64 million when the state sought bids in late 2008. Since there is only $39 million in federal funding available, those bids were rejected.

Officials now believe a revised design can be brought in for $50 million to $55 million, but DOT hasn’t identified where the extra money beyond the $39 million might come from.

“It remains an issue,” VanKeuren said.

The Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, a citizen group formed nearly a decade ago, is urging people to write to Gov. David Paterson about providing extra bridge funding.

The bridge, which opened when the Sacandaga River was first dammed as part of a flood control project in 1930, is the only traffic link between the two halves of Edinburg split by Great Sacandaga Lake.

There are a number of parallels between the bridges at Crown Point and Batchellerville.

Batchellerville’s bridge is only one year newer than the Lake Champlain bridge, which was demolished by explosion two weeks ago, after being abruptly closed in October due to deterioration in its piers.

At 3,078-feet, the Batchellerville bridge is actually 900 feet longer than the Lake Champlain span. A traffic count done last year by Saratoga County found an average of 2,200 vehicles a day use the Batchellerville bridge, a very comparable number to what had been at Crown Point.

Wake-up call

Last year, Batchellerville was reduced to alternating one-way traffic, controlled by traffic lights at either end. VanKeuren said it received a thorough inspection annually, making an abrupt closure decision unlikely.

Raymond hopes the Crown Point situation will spur the state to finally take action.

“I think everyone wants to move forward,” she said. “The Crown Point bridge has brought home the reality that you’ve got to so something about this aging infrastructure.”

A closing of the bridge would be devastating for the town, its public safety system, its school, and to the regional economy, Raymond said.

“If the Batchellerville Bridge were closed indefinitely, I believe 75 percent of the businesses in Edinburg would fail,” she said. “With all our businesses, they draw customers from both sides of the lake.”

Peter Van Avery, co-founder of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, is also urging residents to emphasize the economic impact on the Adirondack Park when they contact the governor’s office.

“Be sure to point out that closure of the bridge, one of the major gateways to the Adirondack Park, would have a major impact on the state’s economy,” he wrote in a recent newsletter. “Great Sacandaga Lake is one of the park’s gems and a major tourist destination, drawing in thousands of folks from out-of-state and Canada. It’s foolish to spend millions of dollars a year on the ‘I Love NY’ program and then place a huge obstacle in the way of tourists seeking fun in the Adirondacks.”

The state in December demolished two seasonal camps it purchased along the alignment of the new bridge, just south of the current structure.

VanKeuren acknowledged there are a number of parallels between the Crown Point and Batchellerville bridges, but said he doesn’t think the state’s approach has changed because of the Crown Point closing.

“We’re on the schedule we set out last year,” he said. “I don’t think there’s been a particular reaction to Crown Point for Batchellerville. It’s an old bridge, it’s had a long life, and we’re trying to maintain it as best we can.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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