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What you need to know for 08/22/2017

Firm to evaluate Schenectady bridge

Firm to evaluate Schenectady bridge

The city might know in the near future whether the Oak Street Bridge could be reopened sooner or lat

The city might know in the near future whether the Oak Street Bridge could be reopened sooner or later.

The City Council next week is set to approve a design services agreement with AECOM USA, Inc., which has a local office in Latham.

Mayor Gary McCarthy said Monday night that the firm would evaluate the bridge to see if it can be fixed with available funds.

“If we’re able to rehab it, then we’ll be able to start the work at the end of this year or the beginning of next year to get it open,” McCarthy said.

If it ends up not being cost-effective to fix the existing bridge, then replacement will have to wait until more funds are available. That could be three or four years down the road, he said.

The federal government is to pick up most of the cost of the work — 80 percent. The state is to kick in 15 percent, with a 5 percent local share.

Officials have also said they would try to get funding from the bridge’s owner, CSX.

The bridge closed in April 2013 after failing two inspections over the course of the year. Piers supporting the span were determined to be seriously deteriorated, but the railroad refused to fix them. CSX argued with Amtrak over who was legally responsible for the piers.

Finally, city officials stepped in and closed the bridge, finding it was unsafe for vehicular traffic.

Since then, neighborhood residents on both sides have been forced into a mile-long detour to get to the other part of the city.

AECOM was found to be the best qualified of the nine firms who vied for the work.

Another long-running project is moving forward as well. The city has been working since at least 2012 to replace water meters at large apartment buildings and commercial buildings with modern ones that allow for remote reading.

The current process requires a meter reader to go and physically read the meters in a building’s basement.

The city already has funding in place to purchase the 1,500 meters it would need.

The job to install them, though, is too big for the city to do on its own. The council is considering a proposal to change city code to allow for contractors to install them. A public hearing could be held later this month.

“If we do all the commercial meters, we don’t have the horsepower to do it,” McCarthy said. “We have to go out and retain an outside vendor or vendors.”

The city is still trying to decide what kind of meters to purchase. The options are meters that are read from a tower or from a passing vehicle. City attorney John Polster said they are leaning toward the ones that allow reading from a passing vehicle.

McCarthy didn’t have a time frame for installation, but said he wants to see it done as quickly as possible.

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