After decades of talk about replacing the Rexford bridge, it looks like it could actually happen.
The bridge’s condition rating is 3.55 — on a scale in which a bridge needs a 5.0 rating to be considered in good shape.
The weight-bearing steel trusses are rusting, the deck is deteriorating and the concrete is wearing on the piers. It’s all age-related, which makes sense, since the bridge will turn 50 next year. Painting in 2010 was designed to slow the rust, but not for long.
“We can keep throwing money at the bridge, but it’s like the old Ford analogy,” said DOT spokesman Bryan Viggiani. “At some point it makes more sense to buy a new car.”
That’s why the state Department of Transportation is optimistic the $25 million to $28 million needed to replace the congested span across the Mohawk River will come through from the federal government, even if not until 2017 or later.
“I’m fairly positive this will go forward. The condition of the bridge is the driving force here,” said DOT project manager Richard Filkins.
The bridge — scenic as it is looking down from the Riverview Road cliffs — has come to symbolize one of the most congested commutes in the Capital Region, the one along Route 146 from bedrooms in Saratoga County to jobs in Schenectady County.
Residents of Rexford say southbound traffic is already steady by 6 a.m., and only gets worse until after 9 a.m. The reverse pattern is already causing stop-and-creep traffic by 4 p.m.
About 22,000 vehicles a day use the bridge.
“I would say it’s at about capacity,” Viggiani remarked.
The plan now being developed by the state would erect a new and wider span just to the west, but Filkins said that’s not what will ease congestion. Traffic will flow better because of a new roundabout planned at Aqueduct Road and Route 146 to replace a traffic light and new turn lanes at the Riverview Road-Alplaus Avenue intersection north of the bridge. Those roads also have extreme backups in the morning.
“Anything we do will function better than it does now,” Filkins told a skeptical crowd ag the Rexford firehouse Thursday night.
The new bridge will have three driving lanes and a dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lane — something that should please cyclists who find the current bridge dangerous.
The replacement bridge will have one northbound lane and two southbound lanes. DOT engineer Howard McCullough said the second southbound lane will make it easier for drivers coming off the bridge to turn right onto Aqueduct Road, as about 25 percent do.
Pete Bardunias of the Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce was in the audience and said a new bridge should be good for local businesses.
“Quality of life and ease of travel back and forth is a factor in business decision-making,” he told me.
But if the look of the overhead steel trusses makes you nostalgic, you’re out of luck. That’s not how they do bridges anymore. The new bridge will probably look like the Route 9-Crescent Bridge or the Gateway Bridge, with all the steel underneath.
The public will have another chance to weigh in at 7 p.m. Thursday at Niskayuna Town Hall.
Saratoga Springs Finance Commissioner Michele Madigan this week released her views on the divisive issue of whether a new casino should come to the city. The bottom line is, she believes, the city’s finances could be hurt if the full-gaming facility goes elsewhere in the Capital Region.
“A new casino located in close proximity to Saratoga Springs, which may include a resort hotel, an entertainment complex and convention facility, could draw business away from the [Saratoga] Casino and Raceway, SPAC, City Center, Race Course and our downtown,” Madigan wrote. “Reduced attendance at those venues would hurt the local economy.”
By state estimates, the city could see $5.7 million annually in new revenue-sharing payments from a casino — money she said could be used to increase services or reduce taxes.
Mayor Joanne Yepsen and Public Safety Commissioner Chris Mathiesen have both expressed deep reservations about the plan for Saratoga Casino and Raceway to expand into a full-gaming casino.
Madigan urged the City Council — which has been pressured by both casino opponents and supporters — to not take any position until the state releases its request for proposals in March. Details about what the state is looking for from casino operators won’t be known until then.
The level of local support will be one of many factors weighed by a state siting board that will decide where the Capital Region’s casino will go.