Schenectady County

State considers proposal to demolish Princetown bridge

State officials are considering demolishing the Birchwood Drive bridge in Princetown next year, c


State officials are considering demolishing the Birchwood Drive bridge in Princetown next year, creating two cul-du-sac neighborhoods near Interstate 88.

The state Department of Transportation has identified the bridge that carries Birchwood Drive over the highway as one that is in need of reconstruction or demolition. The roughly 30-year-old overpass isn’t in any immediate danger of collapse but has reached a structural rating that suggests the agency must address its condition within the next two years.

Spokeswoman Carol Breen said the concern is that the deteriorating bridge could drop hazardous debris on I-88. Repair of the bridge could cost up to $4 million, which is about $3 million more than the price of demolition.

“The preferred alternative is to remove it,” Breen said last week. “In light of the state’s fiscal condition, we think this is a place we could easily remove a bridge and still keep the residents happy.”

If the bridge is demolished, the state would create a cul-du-sac on either end of Birchwood Drive. Without the bridge, residents living near I-88 would need to travel about a mile farther to cross the highway.

About 1,500 vehicles cross the bridge per day. If the state opts for demolition, Breen said the project would be completed sometime in 2012.

State officials met with the town in January to discuss the project. The agency has scheduled a public meeting to explain details at 7 p.m. in Town Hall on March 10. Princetown Supervisor Melanie Whiteley said residents on either side of the bridge seemed indifferent to the project. She said her main concern is whether removing the bridge will cause issues with emergency response.

In addition to the bridge work, the state may also rework a dangerous intersection where Pangburn Road meets Route 7. For years, Princetown officials have called for DOT to improve the approach from the south.

“We have multiple accidents there every year,” Whiteley said.

Whiteley said preliminary plans call for an intersection with a signal. A section of Old Pangburn Road will be shut down and sold to a resident and the intersection of Pangburn Road will be realigned, according to preliminary plans.

Meanwhile, Whiteley said she has received preliminary indications that another bridge project in the town won’t disrupt traffic patterns as badly as initially feared. Schenectady County planners initially anticipated closing down a section of Pangburn Road for more than five months while the deteriorating bridge was replaced.

The county-owned bridge lies about a half-mile south of Route 7 and serves as a main corridor connecting the I-88 interchange in Rotterdam with Gifford Church Road, just north of Route 20.

Planners mapped out a nearly 8-mile detour around the bridge construction. But recently, the Capital District Transportation Committee approved plans to keep at least one lane of the bridge open through the duration of construction.

Whiteley said the closure would have posed a major inconvenience to residents and the owner of the Briar Creek Golf Course. Also, she said closing the bridge would have made it difficult for the town to access one of its water districts in case of emergency.

“Fortunately, they see the need [to keep the bridge open], so we’re very lucky,” she said.

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