The long-awaited opening of the Batchellerville Bridge to traffic took place Thursday afternoon.
The state Department of Transportation decided to go ahead with opening the bridge, which has been finished for several days, after plans for a ceremonial opening early next week fell through.
The three-year, $46.7 million project replaced a deteriorated bridge with a new 3,000-foot span across the middle of Great Sacandaga Lake.
The new bridge was originally scheduled to be opened to traffic in the fall of 2013; the contract included up to a year’s extra time for bad weather, but contractor Harrison and Burrowes Bridge Constructors of Glenmont worked through any issues that arose, including the flooding of coffer dams by 2011 spring runoff.
“Due to their aggressive work schedule and an easy winter, the bridge was able to be built a full year ahead of schedule,” state DOT officials said in a news release issued just before the 3 p.m. opening.
Plans for a ceremony on Monday were scrapped because of coordination issues, said DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani.
DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald said in a statement: “This new bridge accommodates larger, heavier vehicles, allows motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the Great Sacandaga Lake safely, and its increased height better meets the needs of lake users, tourists and permanent and seasonal residents.”
The new bridge was built directly to the south of the 80-year-old former bridge, which will be dismantled next year. Under Adirondack Park Agency approval, the concrete pilings will be knocked into the lake to serve as fish habitat.
The center span of the new bridge has a clearance of 42 feet above the water, as much as 27 feet more than the old bridge, which will allow sailboats to pass beneath. At its center, the arched structure towers over the old bridge.
The height was a compromise reached in 2004 after a citizens’ group called the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee organized to protest a proposed 56-foot clearance.
“We’re delighted the bridge is open,” said Peter VanAvery of Niskayuna, owner of a seasonal camp near the bridge and co-founder of the group. “If our group hadn’t gotten involved in the early 2000s, it would have been a lot higher.”
VanAvery said he was one of the last people across the old bridge Thursday afternoon. He had yet to cross the new bridge.
“We’re certainly glad the project is over. It’s been a noisy two years on the lake,” he said.
In addition to being higher, the new span has a 5-foot-wide, raised sidewalk on the north side and two 5-foot shoulders. The old bridge had minimal shoulders and no sidewalk.
As another part of the project, the “Y” intersection at South Shore Road and the eastern access to the bridge was reconstructed into a T-type intersection.
Construction began in the summer of 2010, after a decades-long dispute between the state and Saratoga County over responsibility for the bridge was settled, with the state agreeing to pay for it with 80 percent federal reimbursement. The county will own and maintain the bridge.
The bridge has been the only physical link between the two halves of Edinburg since the reservoir was created as a Hudson River flood control measure in 1930.
“If that bridge weren’t replaced, this community would die,” town Supervisor Jean Raymond said recently.
During construction, vehicles continued to use the old bridge, though it was limited to alternating one-way traffic controlled by a signal and had a 15-ton weight limit.