When the Dix Bridge across the Hudson River was closed because of its age and deterioration in 1996, it seemed a safe bet it would never reopen.
As it turns out, that would have been a bad bet.
On a chilly, windy Friday morning, as the honking of migrating Canada geese competed with the voices of dignitaries, the 118-year-old, one-lane bridge was reopened for bicycle, pedestrian and snowmobile use.
The 500-foot-long, three-span overhead truss bridge between Saratoga and Washington counties has just undergone a $3 million renovation that’s been a decade in planning.
It crosses the river at Hudson Crossing Park, an environmental park next to Champlain Canal Lock 5. The bridge is considered a significant part of a planned bikeway along the old Champlain Canal from Waterford north to Whitehall, on Lake Champlain.
“This important link will provide quality of life for residents and contribute to expansion of the canalway trail system,” said state Canal Corp. Director Brian Stratton.
After a decade of effort, the Historic Hudson-Hoosick Rivers Partnership, a regional scenic and heritage tourism development effort, was able to secure a $2.45 million federal grant for the needed repairs in 2009. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation provided $300,000, and Saratoga County contributed $342,000. Others, including the Washington County Snowmobile Club, also contributed money.
The work included replacing bridge piers and installing a new wooden deck, which proved strong enough to hold the 80 people who attended the ribbon-cutting.
“This is a great example of what is possible when federal, state and local governments work together to serve their constituents,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, D-Plattsburgh, at the ceremony.
He said access to the bridge is part of an economic development strategy for communities along the Hudson.
“Folks on bicycles, folks on snowmobiles bring money to our communities, and that’s very important,” Owens said.
With the bridge’s opening, about 15 miles of the planned 60 miles of on- and off-road trail between Whitehall and Waterford is done, said Tom Richardson, Mechanicville’s county supervisor and chairman of the partnership.
“Of the rest, nearly all is being worked on one way or another,” he said.
The Dix Bridge is on the state and national historic registers. It was built by local farmers and a mill owner in 1895 as an alternative to a toll bridge a mile south.
The bridge is named for John Dix, who had an estate near the east end of the bridge and was governor of New York state in 1911-12.
The bridge’s location is also where British troops under Gen. John Burgoyne crossed the Hudson in 1777, on their way to the fateful Battles of Saratoga.