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Cost of replica bridge can't be justified

Cost of replica bridge can't be justified

State and feds have more critical uses for that much money
Cost of replica bridge can't be justified
The historic Blenheim Covered Bridge was destroyed by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

You enjoyed it while it lasted, more than 150 years. Yes, it was beautiful. Yes, it was historic. But now it's gone. Let it go.

Officials in Schoharie County are moving forward with the second phase of plan to replace the historic covered bridge in the community of Blenheim with a replica bridge.

Built in 1855, the original 232-foot pedestrian covered bridge washed away in the floodwaters caused by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.

It's a shame the historic bridge was destroyed after surviving in place for so long. But the whopping $10 million price tag to build an exact replica in its place is simply not worth the cost to cash-strapped state and federal taxpayers.

Recently, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a $5.8 million grant for the project, but total costs could reach $10 million. Any costs above the $5.8 million would be shared by the federal and state governments (75/25).

Given the deplorable and dangerous condition of the state's roads and bridges, and considering other local projects that need to be funded as a result of the storm — including the relocation of the county jail ($37 million) and the restoration of the stream beds ($25 million) — rebuilding the bridge is an expensive luxury.

The covered bridge isn't needed as a crossing over the Schoharie Creek, nor is it a particularly valuable tourist attraction. The Route 30 bridge nearby was rebuilt a decade ago (for only $6.8 million) and serves the same purpose as the covered bridge once did.

Arguing that no county tax dollars will be used for the project is a typical tactic of politicians, who conveniently ignore the fact that taxpayers in the county also pay state and federal taxes. It's simply a matter of which of the taxpayer’s pocket the money comes out of.

If local residents and historic preservationists want to pay tribute to the bridge, they can put the recovered remnants of the old span on display, maybe in a local museum or government building.

Or if they're truly interested in re-creating the bridge, they can begin raising private funds for it. A cheaper alternative might be creating a replica on land, in a park, where it wouldn't have to meet the same safety standards of an actual bridge over water, nor would it be at risk of washing away again during the next hurricane.

While it would be great to have the old bridge back in its place, the cost simply doesn't add up for taxpayers. It’s time to just accept that it’s gone for good.

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