February 28, 2007


Bridge proposal to get formal review
Height of proposed Batchellerville span a concern in the past

BY JOE MAHER, Gazette Reporter

State and local officials are hoping to see updated designs for the new Batchellerville Bridge in April.

Then, according to Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond, a review process that played out in an informal fashion seven years ago will restart.

"Even though we went through this whole process, the height and the whole nine yards, it wasn't a formal process," she said.

The state Department of Transportation will send the latest proposal to federal highway officials for review. When federal officials complete their review of the proposal it will be released to the public and various agencies for review, Raymond said.

She said the process will involve numerous agencies including the Adirondack Park Agency, the state Department of Environmental Conservation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local government review boards.

When the state first proposed replacing the bridge, officials wanted to replace the existing structure with a much higher one.

Critics said the highest design, arching 63 feet above the water and with a vertical clearance of 55 feet, would be unsafe and ruin the view.

"With its deck up at the tips of the lampposts on the existing bridge, and its own railing and lampposts protruding up from there, it would destroy one of the most scenic vistas in the Adirondack Park," Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee co-founder and spokesman Peter VanAvery said Tuesday.

"In addition, a number of permanent residents have horror tales to tell of crossing the existing bridge, which is flat, in windy and icy conditions in winter. They believe a high, arch-like bridge would be dangerous," he added.

After many people spoke out against the high design, a compromise was reached in 2001 for a 50-foot-high bridge with a vertical clearance of 42 feet.

VanAvery vowed to lobby hard for the compromise height and called the latest developments a "DOT double-cross."

Raymond said she understands such concerns but she fully believes that the end result will be the compromise design that was arrived at in 2001.

"The Town Board has gone on record as being in favor of the alternative that was arrived at [by] consensus," she said.

"We just need to go through the process," she added. "I have every expectation that when we get done we will be where we were six years ago."

She also stressed the importance of having a bridge linking the two sides of Edinburg and optimism that the process would proceed as quickly as possible.

There's currently a 15-ton weight limit, which means town garbage trucks must make a circuitous 35-mile trip when workers pick up trash on South Shore Road.

Raymond said the bridge is inspected annually and could be deemed unsafe for traffic at any time. That's like playing Russian roulette with the aging structure, Raymond said.

"There's a bullet in the chamber and I donít want to use that bullet," she said, and added that she couldn't conceive what life would be like without the bridge.

State Department of Transportation spokesman Peter Van Keuren said plans for the new structure are moving forward.

He said the plans should be available for public inspection in a couple of months. "We're tentatively looking at April. There's no definite date but that's what we're looking at," he said.

Assuming a public hearing is held in April, the next steps would be to wrap up the final design report by June and approval of that report by August, he said.

The detailed plans could be ready by January 2008 and submitted and approved by March 2008, with the state advertising for bids in August 2008.

Van Keuren said the contract award would then follow in late September 2008.

The existing bridge dates to the construction of the Great Sacandaga Lake in 1930. The cost of replacing it is estimated at $35 million.