Lanes will be reduced on a main bridge into the city near Saratoga Race Course starting next week, just before the start of track season, the state Department of Transportation announced Friday.
The bridge that carries Route 9P over the Northway at Exit 14 is being replaced as part of a $5.7 million project that will begin next week and last into next summer.
Exit 14 is one of the main ways people reach Saratoga Race Course, which opens its annual thoroughbred meet on July 22. Northbound traffic coming off the Northway must cross the bridge to reach the track, which is just west of the exit.
Beginning Monday, the four-lane bridge will be reduced to one lane leaving the city. But both lanes going toward the track will remain open, DOT officials said. One of the two lanes on the northbound exit ramp also will be closed.
Maintaining two traffic lanes into the city on the bridge itself — at least until the end of track season — is intended to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible, a DOT spokeswoman said.
“There will definitely be some delays, as there are any time you have construction,” spokeswoman Carol Breen said.
“We’re trying to do this in a way that has the least impact on the track. We realize it is important to Saratoga and to the Saratoga economy,” Breen said.
The racing meet lasts through Labor Day, and thousands of additional vehicles a day will be using the bridge during racing season, during which traffic often backs up for an hour or two before the 1 p.m. post time. The bridge is also the primary link crossing the Northway between the city and the Saratoga Lake area.
The New York Racing Association wasn’t consulted about the work, according to a spokesman. “We have not had any discussions on this,” said NYRA spokesman Dan Silver.
Breen said DOT contacted many stakeholders about the work, but she couldn’t say whether NYRA was among them. But she said doing some construction work during track season is unavoidable. “We can’t do it just during the off-season and still get it done,” she said.
The current six-pier bridge is going to be replaced with a one-pier multi-girder structure. The current Route 9P bridge opened in 1960, during the original construction of the Northway. Fifty years is roughly the expected lifespan of a bridge, Breen said, and this one has been showing its age. Two of the four lanes were closed for a few days last July after state inspectors found concrete deterioration that required emergency repairs.
That deterioration prompted officials to move a replacement project scheduled for several years from now forward to this year, Breen said. The clearance under the bridge will also be raised by two feet to accommodate large trucks.
The entire bridge will be replaced while remaining open to traffic. Breen said all traffic will be channeled onto one half of the bridge while the other half is demolished and replaced, then traffic will be moved to the new half while the older half is replaced.
Later this fall, after track season is over, Route 9P will be reduced to one lane in each direction through the entire project area. That narrowing of the road will be in place through the winter and into early next summer. The project is due to be completed before the 2012 track season.
There also will be times when traffic on the Northway under the bridge is stopped for demolition work or erection of steel, but those closures are expected to be brief, and will be done at night.
Bette & Cring of Latham will be the contractor doing the work.