DAILY GAZETTE April 19, 2007

FULTON/MONTGOMERY/SCHOHARIE/SARATOGA EDITIONS

SARATOGA COUNTY

County again backs 42-foot clearance for new bridge design Public meeting set for discussion on Tuesday

BY STEPHEN WILLIAMS, Gazette Reporter

County supervisors on Tuesday re-endorsed a 42-foot clearance as their recommendation for the height of the new Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake in Edinburg.

That design is also the "preferred alternative" of the state Department of Transportation, which is currently doing a design study, though other possibilities remain on the table.

The 77-year-old bridge is deteriorating and in line for a $37 million replacement. At 3,078 feet, it is also one of the longest bridges in the region.

DOT is looking at 55-foot and 35-foot height designs, as well, as it prepares to replace the bridge linking the two sides of Edinburg across the lake.

While all three heights are being studied, the state prefers the 42-foot clearance, the figure settled on as a compromise in negotiations among a number of parties after a dispute about the height in 2001-2002.

"We've looked at all the alternatives, and the preferred alternative is the one we think is best," said Peter Van Keuren, a DOT spokesman.

DOT will hold a public meeting to discuss the design at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at the Northville Central School auditorium. Van Keuren said the project manager and other DOT officials will also be available for about an hour before the meeting to informally answer questions.

The county's position repeats the stance it took in 2002, when an earlier design study created controversy over the appropriate bridge height.

One of the people who argued for a lower bridge then was glad the county supported the compromise.

"I think this is very welcome news," said Peter Van Avery, co-founder of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, a group of lake property owners.

The committee was formed in opposition when a 55-foot-high bridge was initially proposed by the state in 2000. Members felt such a tall bridge would block views from the lake shore and be dangerous in winter.

While the committee accepted the 42-foot compromise reached in 2002, members were afraid that settlement would be lost in the new design study.

"I think it's quite good that the people who will own the bridge have agreed to this," Van Avery said.

A 42-foot bridge would be about 8 feet higher than the existing bridge, allowing more room for boats to pass underneath. The new bridge will be south of the current bridge, which will be removed.

The Batchellerville bridge, built when Great Sacandaga Lake was created in 1930, has a 15-ton weight limit. The steel-lattice structure will be replaced with a modern bridge of steel and cement.

The bridge is used by about 2,100 vehicles per day, according to DOT, though the number is much higher during the summer when seasonal residents and visitors are at the lake.

The fate of the bridge and its replacement have been issues for years. Van Keuren said the major obstacle was removed late last year with a settlement of the long-standing dispute over whether the state or Saratoga County owned the bridge, and was therefore responsible for its replacement.

The settlement, under which the state agreed to take responsibility for replacing the bridge and the county agreed it will own the new bridge, allowed the state to apply for $37 million in federal funding.

"At this point all the ducks are in a row and we feel we can move ahead," Van Keuren said.

DOT's plans for approval of the design this summer, final design and construction bidding in 2008, and construction to start in the fall of 2008. Completion would be in 2011.