The Route 9P bridge across the mouth of Saratoga Lake will be closed for eight or nine months in 2010-11 while the aging span is replaced with a new bridge, state Department of Transportation officials said Thursday.
The announcement reversed the previous bridge replacement plan, which was to keep the current bridge open while a new one was built next to it — but state officials said the new alternative is less expensive and can be done faster.
“It’s not the alternative the public expects, but it’s the one we think makes the most sense,” said DOT Region 1 Director Brian O. Rowback.
Replacing the bridge on its current alignment will save the state about $5 million, Rowback said at a news conference at DOT regional headquarters in Schenectady.
The project is now expected to cost about $12.6 million. It will close the bridge from Labor Day 2010 through the following Memorial Day, reopening it as the 2011 summer season starts.
The 600-foot bridge, built in 1923, is badly deteriorated because of its age, with rust on steel gusset plates that hold beams together and flaking on the concrete piers.
Planning for its replacement began in 2003. Last summer, it needed emergency repairs that limited it to alternating one-way traffic for a few weeks.
Rowback said annual full inspections will continue because of the bridge’s age.
“The bridge is at the end of its useful life, and we are confident of our ability to make the repairs to keep it open,” he said.
The bridge carries Route 9P across the lake where it meets Fish Creek. It connects the city to the town of Saratoga and the residences and businesses around Saratoga Lake.
Rowback said the bridge is used by about 5,000 vehicles a day in the summer, which is the busiest time of the year.
He said the DOT will be working with local businesses on signs so the public knows that they will remain open and with Saratoga Springs school officials on bus route alternatives.
That section of the lake, near a state boat launch, will remain open to boat traffic as construction activity allows, Rowback said.
Because the bridge is the dividing line between Saratoga Springs and town of Saratoga fire services, he said there shouldn’t be an impact on initial emergency response times.
The recommended detour will be up to 16 miles around the south end of the lake, but Rowback acknowledged that people will find shorter routes.
“Route 9P does not get a lot of long-distance traffic. Route 9P goes around Saratoga Lake and is mostly used by local residents,” Rowback said.
Rowback said the DOT believes that the cost reduction and quicker construction schedule are worth the inconvenience caused by the closing.
“We’re in very challenging fiscal times, and our money needs to go as far as it can,” Rowback said.
Replacing the bridge in the same place will cost about $5 million less because of reduced land acquisition and highway approach work and some design changes, Rowback said.
Work would start in the spring of 2010, though the closure wouldn’t happen until after the summer tourism season.
Then, to get the bridge finished by Memorial Day 2011, Rowback said the state will require accelerated construction techniques, including on-site assembly of the bridge piers from pre-cast concrete blocks. The assembled columns would then be taken out into the lake by barge for placement.
“There will be a significant amount of activity with cranes going out on the lake, cranes larger than people are used to seeing around here,” he said.
The piers will go down about 120 feet to reach firm footing under the lake, said DOT project manager Richard Filkins.
DOT officials will hold a public information meeting on its new plan at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 3, at Saratoga Springs City Hall. They plan to finalize the plan in January and spend most of 2009 developing the design details needed before construction bidding.
Information is also available at www.nysdot.gov/route9pbridge.