October 24, 2006


State, feds to foot bill for bridge


The state will provide the $35 million to $40 million needed to build a replacement for the Batchellerville Bridge, federal and state officials said Monday.

The 3,078-foot bridge is one of the longest upstate bridges, and is used by thousands of visitors and seasonal residents of the scenic Sacandaga region, as well as yearround residents.

"The bridge is critically important," U.S. Rep John E. Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, said during an announcement at the Edinburg Town Park next to the bridge, with the wind-swept lake as a backdrop.

The bridge, the only direct link between two halves of Edinburg separated by the lake, is deteriorating, and officials from the town and Saratoga County have been pushing for its replacement at state expense for years.

While it wasn't formally announced until Monday, the funding from state-controlled federal transportation money has been expected since county supervisors agreed last month that the county would own and maintain the new bridge, resolving a major stumbling block, if the state paid for it.

The state and county have disputed ownership, with the state contending it was a county bridge because the road across it is a county road, while county officials contended the state built the bridge originally, and therefore bore responsibility.

Officials confirmed Monday that Saratoga County will bear none of the construction cost.

"The reality is local property taxpayers could not have sustained the burden to build this bridge," said Sweeney, who earlier provided $3 million in federal money toward bridge design work.

The replacement bridge has yet to be designed. State Department of Transportation Commissioner Thomas J. Madison Jr. said a tentative agreement concerning the bridge's underside clearance in 2002 isn't binding.

"No, those agreements weren't final, and we'll continue the public dialogue," Madison said.

He said a public meeting on bridge design alternatives will be held in late winter or early spring.

Edinburg Town Supervisor Jean Raymond said she believes the state will eventually settle on the 42-foot height, which DOT offered as a compromise after years of debate between those concerned that a high bridge would be too visible against the Adirondack backdrop and sailboating interests that wanted the bridge to have a high clearance.

The current bridge has a 32-foot clearance, not enough for sailboats. The state proposed a 55-foot clearance in a preliminary design in 1999, prompting a lengthy debate that resulted in the 2002 agreement.

"I think, formally, DOT has to hold hearings and take public input," Raymond said. "Do I think the agreement reached three or four years ago is still the best alternative? Yes, I do. Will I fight for it? Yes, I will."

Peter Van Avery of Edinburg and Schenectady, co-founder of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee citizens' group that was formed to oppose a high-clearance design, said he wishes the state had stood by the compromise height.

Preliminary design calls for the new bridge to be built south of the existing bridge, across the town park and land the state will acquire on the west side. Madison said it's already been determined it will have wider travel lanes, wide shoulders for bicycles, and a sidewalk for pedestrians.

Madison said construction should start in early 2009, and will probably take two years.

Gloversville, NY
October 24, 2006

Officials announce $35M for Batchellerville Bridge

By GREG HITCHCOCK, The Leader-Herald

EDINBURG Federal and state officials gathered at Edinburg Town Park Monday to announce $35 million in funding to replace the 76-year-old Batchellerville Bridge.

"This bridge is critically important as an essential corridor for year-round residents. Replacing the bridge will allow continued access from Fulton to Saratoga counties," U.S. Rep. John Sweeney, R-Clifton Park, said.

He said in order to qualify for federal funding, the project had to show a need.

"The Batchellerville Bridge is not just a vital link for transportation, but it invigorates economic development in the Capital District," state Department of Transportation Commissioner Tom Madison said.

"A big piece is federal funding. I am happy to have the congressman on the subcommittee on transportation to help fund projects like this across the entire state," Madison said.

The two-year building project is estimated to cost between $35 million and $40 million to complete. Beyond $40 million, the state can supplement the project with state transportation funds, according to Madison.

"The bridge is a Fulton [County] and Saratoga County asset. It is also a hazard and is why it is critical we get started on building the new bridge in 2008 or the spring of 2009," Madison said.

Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward, R-Willsboro, said the real crux was being able to get school buses, fire trucks and ambulances across the bridge.

"The community of Edinburg couldn't do it alone," she said.

Sayward said without the leadership of Edinburg Town Supervisor Jean Raymond, the project would never have gotten off the ground.

Raymond said she was "beyond thrilled" when she heard about the funding available to start building the new bridge.

"I think it is a testament to ... federal, state and local cooperation," Raymond said.

Madison said the state plans to conduct a public hearing in the spring to discuss updating the design of the new bridge. He said preliminary work was done, but the design was outdated. He said by having a new partnership between the state and Saratoga County, and with funding available to start work, it allows them to update the design work.

According to the terms of the partnership, Saratoga County will accept ownership of the new Batchellerville Bridge and New York state will fund and build it.

The original design plans called for a 42-foot-high bridge clearance from the water's surface to the underside of the bridge. Above it will have two travel lanes that are 11-feet wide, two 5-foot shoulders and a separate 5-foot-wide sidewalk on one side.

The height of the bridge over the Great Sacandaga Lake has been a point of contention among residents around the bridge and the state. Opponents of a high bridge have said it would hurt the environmental character of the area. Proponents say a high bridge would allow users of sailboats to access the northern part of the lake.

The existing bridge has a 15-foot clearance.

The state had been considering an arched bridge with a 55-foot clearance in the middle, among other proposals.