New York State Department of Transportation officials say they will go forward with plans to replace and expand the Route 30A bridge in Fonda regardless of whether the federal government conducts a feasibility study for a bypass highway connecting Thruway Exit 28 to Route 30A in Johnstown.
Initially, the DOT had intended to build a replacement span on the west side of the existing Route 30A bridge in 2010, but after public outcry the plan was shifted to be built on the eastern side. The project is scheduled to start in 2011 and will cost an estimated $5.75 million, which would include alterations at the intersection of Route 5 to make it more suitable for heavy truck traffic.
“The Route 30A bridge needs to be replaced. It’s a vital enough link that we would not let it deteriorate to the point where it would have to be closed,” DOT Region 2 public information officer Alice Romanych said. “[A Fonda bypass highway] would be a 12- to 15-year project … and the bottom line is we really can’t afford to wait until that feasibility study is completed before we replace the bridge.”
U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, said he’s been in contact with officials in both Fulton and Montgomery counties who want him to fight for a $2.4 million engineering and feasibility study for a bypass highway in the next federal transportation bill. Tonko said he’s ready to fight for the study because he believes a bypass highway could cut down on truck traffic and pollution in Fonda.
“The feasibility study would provide for a thoughtful, analytical, steady process that gets the traffic from Exit 28 up to the Johnstown Industrial Park by circumventing the village of Fonda,” Tonko said.
Supervisors in Fulton and Montgomery counties are poised to formally request the federal government provide 80 percent of the cost for the study, with the counties putting up a combined $480,000.
Fonda Mayor Kim Flander said she was surprised to hear the two county governments were lobbying for a feasibility study to build a highway bypass. She said state DOT officials told her in 2008 that constructing a bypass was not a feasible option as an alternative to replacing the Route 30A bridge. She said she supports the federal government feasibility study but wonders what the point would be after the state takes land from village residents to expand the bridge.
The bridge expansion will likely result in the state forcing the relocation of several Fonda businesses, including Antoinette’s Cafe at the eastern corner of routes 5 and 30A and Mike’s Pizza. “A year ago we talked to the state and asked them about a bypass. We were told a study was already done and based on that study it wasn’t cost effective to do the bypass,” Flander said. “If they’re going to conduct this study while they’re doing construction, I can’t comprehend why they are doing both.”
Romanych said replacing the Route 30A bridge is expected to result in the state purchasing slices of 10 properties and four entire parcels.
She said the state hasn’t determined the cost of that part of the project. She said no formal study was done on the cost of building a Fonda bypass highway, but rough estimates indicate it would cost at least $35 million to $45 million.