TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: March 30, 2007

Reminder: The public hearing on the Batchellerville Bridge Replacement Project will be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at Northville Central School, 131 South Third Street, Northville, N.Y. Plan to show up and speak out. You will have three minutes at the mike. That new chunk of concrete and steel will be with us for the next 50 years.


BBAC members are livid about the NYS Department of Transportation's decision to reopen the debate over the bridge's design. The agency refers to the compromise design announced in 2002 after three years of public input as the "preferred alternative." But it admits that its height and location could still change.

The BBAC reluctantly accepted the compromise design, which would replace the existing flat bridge with an arched structure. It would elevate County Road 98 (now 32 feet above the lake) to a maximum height of 50 feet, with a vertical clearance underneath of 42 feet. That would allow most of the lake's sailboats, up to four stories high, to pass underneath. Only a handful could not make it when the lake is full.

Our concern is that DOT will push for its highest option, which it has obviously favored right along. That would elevate County Road 98 some 63 feet above the lake's surface, creating a vertical clearance underneath of 55 feet. The road would be at the tips of the lamp posts on the existing bridge. Incidentally, the new bridge will be 13 feet wider than the old one.

Tell Governor Spitzer what YOU want: On the Internet: first go to http://www.state.ny.us/governor/. Then click on "Contact the Governor." By snailmail, address your letter to Governor Eliot Spitzer, State Capitol, Albany, NY 12224. Mail a copy of your letter to Erica Rousseau, P.E., Project Manager, NYS Department of Transportation, 328 State Street, Schenectady, NY 12305.


As promised in our March 16 newsletter, here are answers to some frequently asked questions about the bridge project:

QUESTION: DOT has repeatedly claimed that it does not favor one bridge design over another and that it will build the bridge that the public wants. So how come DOT offered only arched designs for the public to consider? Why weren't we given an opportunity to express our preference for a flat bridge?

ANSWER: The Batchellerville Bridge exists to carry autos, trucks, school buses, and emergency vehicles safely across the lake. Some 750,000 or more vehicles make that crossing every year. Back in 1998, when DOT launched the project, it chose to ignore what those drivers wanted (the vast majority would undoubtedly have opted for a flat bridge). Instead, it sounded out three sailboat enthusiasts. The arched design options are based on what they recommended. To put this in perspective, keep in mind that there were only about 150 sailboats on the lake at the time. That's a very short tail wagging a very large dog.

 

QUESTION: I am one of the 4,500 non-commercial access permit holders on the lake. I paid a small fortune to enjoy the view. Now, DOT wants to smear the vista with a giant bridge that will be there for the next 50 or more years. At the beginning of the project, why didn't DOT give me an opportunity to tell them that I wanted the lowest possible replacement bridge?

ANSWER: Your taxes pay for the salaries of DOT's management. In return, they treat you and your opinions with contempt. If you don't like it, write the Governor and speak out at the April 24 public hearing. If you are happy with the situation, do nothing.

 

QUESTION: What's wrong with a high arched bridge?

ANSWER: The BBAC accepted the compromise design, which is arched. But there are limits, and we will not go one inch higher. Our members bought property at the lake to enjoy its beauty. That does not include a monstrously high concrete-and-steel structure, which would be visual pollution at its worst.

But don't forget that there's also an important safety issue. Remember that the higher the arch, the steeper the grade. Imagine that you are driving a school bus up that slope in wintry weather. Skidding down the slope toward you is a fully loaded logging truck, with its load fish-tailing into your lane. On a bridge, there is scant room for defensive maneuvers. Ask yourself: In this situation, would you prefer to be on a steeper or a more gradual grade?

Now suppose you are driving down that grade in an ice storm with a howling wind buffeting your vehicle. Maybe you're a senior citizen heading home, a mom with a couple of kids in the back seat, or a driver of an emergency vehicle. If you go into a skid, would you prefer to be on a steeper or a more gradual grade? I think you get the point.

 

QUESTION: Some sailboaters say that the grade from the highest option would be no big deal. How about that?

ANSWER: Decide for yourself. Stand at the Batchellerville end and look up at the tips of the lamp posts halfway across the 3,000-foot-long bridge. That's where the highest design option would put County Road 98. Want to drive that slope in bad weather? And don't forget that some of the most vocal supporters of the highest bridge option are not even property owners on the lake. They are day trippers. While you struggle up and down that arch for the next half-century, it won't be their problem.

 

QUESTION: How often do you see a tall sailboat anywhere near the bridge?

ANSWER: Hardly ever. The bridge is located on a narrow neck of the lake. The area does not offer good sailing. I saw a tall sailboat near the bridge on only a half-dozen occasions during the entire summer of 2006.

The Mayfield Yacht Club, where most of the lake's tall sailboats are docked, has two events each year that involve the bridge. Last June, they were supposed to hold a long-distance race to the bridge and back. Because of the lack of wind, they raced to the closer Northville Bridge instead. Last September, on Labor Day Weekend, they were supposed to hold a rally at the bridge. Although there was a light wind, only one sailboat showed up. (At the same event in 2005, with a light wind, a handful of boats participated -- but although their sails were rigged, their motors were running. The spectacle provoked laughter among observers, as well as comments that can't be reproduced here.)


I've heard a couple of rumors about a coming event called the Great Sacandaga Lake Tea Party. As best I can make out, it would be a massive demonstration designed to call the Governor's attention to the plight of permit holders struggling under the Regulating District's heavy thumb. If you know any details, please pass them along to me.


The District has awarded a $571,000 contract to D.A. Collins Construction to repair the two inoperable emergency release Dow valves at the Conklingville Dam. Work is now in progress. The first valve broke down seven months ago. A speedy fix this isn't.


The reservoir is refilling. Today, it's at 752 feet above sea level, four feet above target.