Construction bids for a new Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake are millions of dollars higher than officials had hoped.
When bids were opened Thursday at state Department of Transportation headquarters in Colonie, the apparent low bid on the massive bridge project was $64.1 million from Chemung Contracting Co. of Elmira.
That’s about $25 million more than state officials had budgeted for the new bridge. Steel and fuel prices have risen during the decade of design work, but officials thought the slow economy might mean construction prices would stay close to the budgeted amount.
The other bidder, Kubricky Construction of Queensbury, priced the project at $66.4 million. Other construction contractors picked up bid packages but then didn’t submit bids.
The state had budgeted $38.9 million for the new bridge, almost all of it federal transportation funds.
A new bridge would replace a 78-year-old steel-and-concrete truss bridge that stretches 3,000 feet across Great Sacandaga Lake, linking the two halves of Edinburg.
While it is probably the region’s most remote major bridge, it is a link vital in the town economy, much of which revolves around summer visitors.
Town Supervisor Jean Raymond had feared the bids would be higher than the state had planned.
“I’m disappointed but I’m not surprised,” she said. “Certainly, the state continues to have an obligation to the people of this area.”
A DOT spokesman said the apparent low bid will be reviewed, the state’s design documents will be re-examined and state officials may meet with the contractor to determine how it arrived at its price.
“Our options are to accept the bid or throw all the bids out and re-let it. That will be determined after we review the bids,” said Peter VanKeuren, spokesman for DOT Region 1 in Schenectady.
He couldn’t immediately say whether extra money for the project might be available if the Chemung Contracting bid appears reasonable.
“It’s a well-known fact a new bridge is needed. We have to look at our next steps,” VanKeuren said.
The current bridge, built when the Sacandaga reservoir was dammed in 1930, has a number of age-related problems and carries a 3.53 rating on a scale where any rating below 5.0 is considered deficient. It carries a 15-ton weight limit that has been in place since it was built, preventing many loaded trucks from using it.
The Batchellerville bridge has been discussed by local, county and state officials as among bridges needing replacement for more than a decade.
A longtime dispute over whether the state or Saratoga County owns the bridge prevented the project from moving forward for many years, as did a design dispute over the bridge’s height. But the ownership issue was settled in 2006 with an agreement that the state will pay for a new bridge and the county will then take future responsibility.
The design dispute ended with a decision to give the bridge a 42-foot clearance, higher than the current bridge but lower than an earlier proposal that some camp owners said would block their views of the Adirondacks.
Peter Van Avery, a leader of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee that was founded during the design dispute, was critical of the state’s cost estimate apparently being so far off, given the years of study that preceded bidding.
“That antiquated bridge is a critical gateway to the Adirondack Park, and a replacement must be built in the very near future,” Van Avery said. “If DOT cannot afford a $64 million structure or obtain lower bids, it should take a hard look at the alternatives.”
He said the 5-foot sidewalks could be removed from the design or the bridge design could be lowered, making it closer in height to the current bridge.
The state still needs to pursue the project, he said.
“The bridge is traversed by tens of thousands of tourists annually whose expenditures are critical to businesses in Edinburg, Northville, Day and other towns and villages,” Van Avery said.
It’s also a critical link for fire trucks and ambulances, and for local residents to reach services, he said.