The state wants to replace the aging Rexford Bridge from scratch and install a roundabout at one end, but it wants to get area residents on board with the plan first.
The state Department of Transportation is hosting two open houses in coming weeks to give the public an opportunity to review and comment on its plans for the highly trafficked bridge. The first will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 23 at the Rexford Fire Station on Route 146. The second open house will serve as the official public hearing on the proposal. It will be held at 7 p.m. Jan. 30 at Niskayuna Town Hall.
The plan is to replace the bridge entirely. To do that, workers would build a new bridge just west of the current bridge, which they would tear down once the new bridge is complete. Built in 1965, the current structure over the Mohawk River has seen maintenance costs rise steadily over the years as it ages and as traffic over the bridge continues to grow.
“We think of it like a car,” said state Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Viggiani. “We want to replace it before it gets much older. The older a car gets, the more issues it has and the more money you pour into it trying to keep it running. The typical lifespan of a bridge is a little more than 50 years. Rexford has aged to a point where it’s basically time to replace it.”
It’s possible the state would need to purchase “some small strips of property” if it rebuilds just west of the current bridge, he said.
As the state looks at replacing the bridge, Viggiani said the time is opportune to look at potential traffic configurations at its nearby intersections.
The bridge is one of the longer-standing bottlenecks in the Capital Region. Traffic can get backed up for miles during rush hour on the Schenectady County side of the bridge, where the intersection of Aqueduct and Balltown roads physically abuts the bridge. And as jobs and development in Saratoga County have grown, so has traffic over the bridge. On some nights, a wait at the Aqueduct-Balltown traffic light can stretch as long as 15 minutes.
A roundabout would alleviate this, said Viggiani. And installing it at the same time as the bridge would be cost-effective, he added.
Traffic on the Saratoga County side of the bridge can get clogged, too. But the closest intersection — Route 146 and Riverview Road — is much farther back from the river than the Aqueduct-Balltown intersection. Viggiani said the proposal includes widening this intersection and creating more lanes for left-turning, right-turning and through traffic.
“We would have to do some realigning of roads on both sides so it matches with the new bridge,” he said.
Still, if residents come out and say they’re against a new bridge, the state would consider alternatives, he said.
The biggest issue for DOT right now is that no funding source has been identified for such a project yet. Still, the agency wants to have a plan in place that’s agreeable to residents so that once funding is made available the project can start quickly.
State officials will be available Jan. 23 and Jan. 30 to discuss the project in an informal environment before and after their presentations. Afterward, a final design report will be issued “hopefully by March,” Viggiani said.