Schenectady County

Inspection of unsafe Schenectady bridge could lead to repairs

It’s been 15 months since the Oak Street bridge was closed, and not a minute of work has been done o

It’s been 15 months since the Oak Street bridge was closed, and not a minute of work has been done on it yet.

But city Engineer Christopher Wallin hopes contractors will be able to inspect the deterioration in September.

It has been a long, long wait — especially for the small segment of the Bellevue neighborhood that was largely cut off when the bridge closed. Their only other route out requires a one-mile detour onto Broadway, where there are now regular traffic jams.

It took most of a year to get funds from the state and federal governments to repair the bridge. Then the city hired contractor AECOM, and asked for permission to get started. The state and federal officials finally said yes last week.

“Now we’re authorized to spend money,” Wallin said.

But the wait isn’t over yet.

Wallin still doesn’t have permission from Amtrak to work on the bridge, which is jointly owned by the city and the railroad. It goes over the tracks, and the piers that are planted on Amtrak land are deteriorating.

AECOM needs to take a close look at those piers to determine the amount of damage and whether it can be repaired.

Wallin hopes to get permission from Amtrak by September.

An Amtrak spokesman could not explain the delay, saying that the only person who could explain was not in the office Friday.

Once AECOM gets the final go-ahead, the company needs only a week to survey and inspect the bridge, Wallin said.

They will use that information to analyze whether the bridge can be fixed. That analysis will take about two months, he said.

Then and only then can they begin designing the repair project.

“One of the positives is, we will have December, January, February — when [construction crews are not] working anyway — to put together the design,” he said.

If the bridge can be repaired, work could begin next spring.

But if AECOM decides the bridge must be rebuilt, everything will go back to the drawing board. The state and federal funds are for repair only — not replacement.

Wallin is hoping repairs are possible. But, he said, he has no idea how long it will take to fix the bridge if it can be repaired. He won’t know until AECOM gets a look at the piers.

“I don’t know the extent of the repairs,” he said, adding that he couldn’t even promise that the bridge can be repaired.

“I don’t want to give people false hope,” he said.

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