Years have gone by without any progress, but it looks like construction on the Oak Street Bridge will begin in April.
Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the design of the bridge would be approved mid-September. Final approval would follow in January with the project going out to bid shortly after that.
“It’s moving slower than we would like but it’s moving,” McCarthy said. He announced the timeframe of the project during a City Council meeting Monday evening.
McCarthy expects the bridge construction, which he described as a rehab rather than a rebuild, to be completed by the end of 2016. “So a year from now it will be open,” he said.
McCarthy ordered an emergency closure in April 2013 when it was determined that the bridge might have to be entirely replaced due to its badly deteriorated steel piers.
The railroad whose tracks run below the bridge is responsible for its upkeep, but repairs have stalled because of a back-and-forth between CSX and Amtrak about which entity would foot the bill.
McCarthy said the issue with the railroads was never resolved and that CSX and Amtrak will not be providing any funding for the project.
Instead, federal funding will cover 80 percent of the total cost, plus another 15 percent from the state. The city will be responsible for paying 5 percent of the tab.
The total price tag to repair the bridge is about $1.3 million, according to City Engineer Chris Wallin.
Wallin said on top of that, the city is looking at an additional $1.4 million investment to clean and paint the bridge. That would be contingent on securing the funding from an outside source.
Replacing the bridge would cost a total of about $4.1 million — a bill Wallin said the city just couldn’t swing.
“If we repair the bridge, it’s federally reimbursable,” he said. “If we were to replace it there is no federal money to replace it. This is the most economical way for the city to open the bridge up to traffic.”
The bridge was built in 1937 and connects Cheltingham Avenue with Eightth Avenue. Barricades on either side of the bridge have blocked Oak Street to traffic for more than two years.
Councilman Vince Riggi said he believes repairs to the bridge were “kicked down the road.”
“It seems like there was some feet dragging,” he said. “Why did it take two years to bring this to the council? What ever will get that bridge opened as quickly as possible I’m all for it.”
Riggi added that having the bridge closed down left some people’s lives at risk.
“The people at Hungry Hill on that side of Broadway and Bellevue are at risk with paramedic and emergency medical services taking longer, especially in the wintertime.”
McCarthy said the bridge’s repairs would focus on its structure to ensure it can be reopened next year. Architecture firm AECOM in Latham is doing the design of the bridge.
“The bridge is not going to change dramatically,” he said. “We’re replacing those things that are deteriorated that can no longer provide structural support.”
Wallin said the bridge repairs would center on replacing the deteriorated lateral steel supports along with work to its superstructure steel, repairing joints and cleaning the bearings.
“The main issue is the lateral supports,” he said. “They keep the bridge from swaying in the wind. We will replace those entirely.”
Repairs to the bridge would last a minimum of 15 years, he said. Wallin stressed that because it’s a neighborhood bridge, funding is not easy to come by.
“In the big picture of New York state, this bridge is extremely small,” he said. “When funding becomes available for local municipalities it’s a competitive process.”
Wallin said if the projected timeline for construction holds true, the bridge could be reopened by next summer.
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