Engineers are recommending traffic be cut down to one lane on the 82-year-old bridge that carries state Route 5S over the Schoharie Creek.
Heavily traveled by trucks, a recent inspection revealed deteriorating steel that will force a decision on the bridge’s future, according to the state Department of Transportation.
The Route 5S bridge is one of two in Montgomery County DOT representatives will discuss in a meeting this week.
According to the DOT website, the bridge, built in 1929, is considered “functionally obsolete” and has a condition rating of 4.83.
Bridges rated below a 5 are considered deficient, though the DOT in a release states the bridge is still safe for travel.
DOT Region 2 spokesman Anthony Ilacqua said temporary traffic lights, which will allow traffic in one direction at a time, are considered the best option.
During a meeting held with the DOT last month, Glen town Supervisor Lawrence Coddington said adding a weight restriction was discussed but that would complicate commercial traffic that makes use of the bridge.
“A lot of vehicles go over that 5S bridge,” Coddington said.
These include trucks from the massive Target distribution center in the Florida Business Park, a nearby trucking business that handles milk for dairy farms and the trucks from the Beech-Nut plant, also in the business park.
Coddington said one-way traffic should add about 2 minutes to a trip over the bridge, which is a quicker alternative than having to drive into Amsterdam and north up Market Street, turn south again and head west on state Route 5.
Reducing traffic down to one lane over the Route 5S bridge will cut the pressure on the bridge down by half, Montgomery County Public Works Commissioner Paul Clayburn said.
“They feel they can buy some time by reducing the load,” Clayburn said.
When engineers determine the load ratings for a bridge, they consider the worst — or heaviest — possible scenario, Clayburn said.
With two-lane traffic, the bridge could conceivably be supporting six tractor-trailer loads at once — three in each direction — as opposed to only three at once with one-way traffic.
Clayburn said the bridge’s steel members — not the pilings sitting in the Schoharie Creek — are deteriorating and the steel is wearing thin, possibly due to road salt that accelerates rusting.
Officials are still deciding what a long-term solution might be.
Clayburn said one option being discussed is using the railroad bridge that crosses the Schoharie Creek just to the north of the Route 5S bridge.
The former West Shore railroad bridge, currently carrying the Canalway Trail bike path over the Schoharie Creek, played an important role in traffic flow following the collapse of the state Thruway bridge on April 5, 1987.
Ten people died in that disaster engineers determined was caused by inadequate erosion protection for the piers holding the bridge up.
In an investigation report that followed, the nearby West Shore railroad bridge and Route 5S bridge being looked at now were held up as examples of how to build a bridge in a raging creek like the Schoharie by driving pilings deep into the bedrock and protecting them from scour.
Clayburn said the railroad bridge could be used to carry westbound traffic while the Route 5S bridge accommodates eastbound traffic similar to how it was used while a new Thruway bridge was built.
If the old railway bridge does play a role, there would have to be some barriers put up to separate Canalway Trail users from motorists, Clayburn said.
This week’s hearing will also focus on plans to replace the state Route 30A bridge that brings traffic over the CSX railway onto state Route 5 in Fonda.
The $5.3 million replacement project is expected to begin this spring. The work is expected to affect traffic patterns at the railroad crossings at Center Street and Broadway and require a temporary traffic signal at the intersection of Route 30A and Park Street, according to the DOT.
A two-hour meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Wednesday in the multi-purpose room of the Fonda-Fultonville school district. The first hour will be dedicated to discussion on the Fonda bridge and, from 7 to 8 p.m., the DOT will concentrate on the state Route 5S bridge over the Schoharie Creek.
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Categories: Schenectady County