DAILY GAZETTE
Schenectady, NY
March 2, 2007

EDITORIALS

Time to end Batchellerville Bridge game

Stories like the one in the paper this week about the replacement of the Batchellerville Bridge have been gracing the pages of this newspaper for nearly a decade -- the first one appeared on March 10, 1998. So why does it seem like the bridge is no closer to being built today than it was then?

In 1999, the state Department of Transportation unveiled two proposals regarding the new bridge's height -- one calling for a vertical clearance above Great Sacandaga Lake of 55 feet, the other calling for 35 feet. It seemed as though the taller of the two plans was going to prevail, but in 2002 -- after residents at the south end of the lake howled, justifiably, that a bridge that high would be an eyesore, and unsafe in winter winds, DOT compromised: endorsing a 42-foot vertical clearance, seven feet higher than the existing structure.

That seemed just about the right height -- high enough to allow most, if not all, sailboats under it, yet low enough not to wreck the landscape or subject wintertime users to treacherous winds. But what happened? Nothing. Disputes over ownership (Saratoga County vs. the state) and, thus, liability were followed by funding questions, pushing the project from the back burner right off the stove.

Now it's back, but instead of picking up where everybody left off, state and local officials are saying the design review process is set to begin anew; it wasn't "formal" the first time. And even if things go according to schedule, with a public hearing in April, final design report in June and approval in August, detailed plans wouldn't be ready until next January at the earliest and the state wouldn't be able to approve them until March. With the awarding of contracts unlikely before late September, construction would not be expected to begin until 2009! And that would be a best-case scenario, with DOT sticking to its guns over the 42-foot height compromise.

One can only hope that's what happens, or Gazette readers might have to be subjected to another five years' worth of stories before this thing gets built.