After years of hope, consternation and discussion, construction of the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook pedestrian bridge will officially begin today with a dedication ceremony.
The news conference to announce the beginning of construction will take place at 10:30 a.m. on the south side of the Mohawk River in Amsterdam. U.S. Rep. Paul D. Tonko, D-Amsterdam, Amsterdam Mayor Anne M. Thane and Brian U. Stratton, director of the Canal Corporation, are slated to attend.
The $16.5 million project, funded through the 2005 Rebuild and Renew New York Transportation Bond Act, has faced opposition.
Opponents have labeled the span a “Bridge to Nowhere” and a waste, since the bridge will not directly connect from the South Side neighborhood to downtown Amsterdam where the businesses would be. Also, there already is a sidewalk on the Route 30 bridge, a short distance away.
The Common Council wrestled for months with issues surrounding the pedestrian bridge project. One of the many concerns, despite assurances from city officials that costs would be minimal, is that the city would be responsible for maintenance.
The issue had at least one alderman wondering what negative after-effects could result from the agreement.
“It is my responsibility to ensure that the people that live in the city of Amsterdam, all the people in the city of Amsterdam, are not taken for a sleigh ride on this one,” 4th Ward Alderman David Dybas said in 2013.
During debate in 2013, Thane said she was not concerned about any backlash if the city agrees to maintain the bridge. “This is just a good project for us — this is only a good project for us,” she said.
Montgomery County Executive Matthew L. Ossenfort understands there has been “passionate views from both sides,” but sees any investment in the county as a positive and welcomes it. “Now that it’s started, hopefully people will come together and it can be a positive for the area,” he said.
The bridge is expected to be finished by the summer of 2016, a year later than original projections.
Amsterdam’s Common Council approved the Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook just more than a year ago. At that meeting, Robert von Hasseln, the city’s community and economic development director, described the Common Council’s approval as an important step in the city’s work to improve the downtown area. The Mohawk Valley Gateway Overlook — a pedestrian bridge with a park on it — will lead to the downtown area.
“We kept a key component on track today,” von Hasseln said. “I think this is going to bring in millions of dollars a year.”