TO: Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee Members
FROM: Peter VanAvery
DATE: April 22, 2007

This week, the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors reviewed the state's plan to replace the Batchellerville Bridge across Great Sacandaga Lake at Edinburg and voted unanimously to endorse the Department of Transportation's preferred alternative: an arch-like structure that would elevate County Route 98 up to a maximum height of 50 feet out in the center of the lake, with a vertical clearance below of 42 feet. That would allow at least 90% of the lake's sailboats to pass underneath.

The endorsement is significant because Saratoga County will become owner of the new bridge after it is completed in 2011 and solely responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. The preferred alternative (the compromise design announced by DOT in 2002) also has been endorsed by the Edinburg Town Board and the BBAC.

Now the spotlight switches to the final public hearing to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 24, at Northville Central School. DOT representatives will be on hand from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. to answer your questions. Although statements by the public will be limited to three minutes each, you can go back and sign up for another three minutes if you have more to say. You will have three choices: the lowest alternative (a 43-foot-high arch with a vertical clearance of 35 feet), DOT's preferred alternative (a 50-foot-high arch with a vertical clearance of 42 feet) or the highest alternative (a 63-foot-high arch with a vertical clearance of 55 feet).

This battle isn't over yet, and if you feel strongly about the height of the bridge, you'd better join me at the hearing and speak out. I'm counting on your support. Don't forget that the highest alternative advocated by some sailboaters would double the height of County Route 98, putting it up at the tips of the lamp posts on the present bridge. Its own railing and lamp posts would jut upward from there.

Some talking points in favor of the preferred alternative:

Item: Nearly 850,000 vehicles cross the bridge each year. The highest alternative favored by some sailboaters raises safety issues. The steeper the arch, the harder it would be to bring a skidding school bus or other vehicle under control in winter. Why should thousands of drivers have to struggle up and down a steep arch all winter for the next 50 years just to accommodate a handful of sailboaters in summer? Keep in mind that some of the most vocal sailboaters are day-trippers and not even lake property owners. Ice and snow will be our problem, not theirs.

Item: Thousands of people have invested a small fortune in their lake homes. Why should their beautiful view be marred by a high concrete-and-steel bridge erected for the benefit of a few sailboaters? That's a mighty small tail trying to wag a giant dog. Democracy doesn't work that way.

Item: When sailboaters complain that the bridge deprives them of half of the lake, remind them that Great Sacandaga's water surface is unevenly distributed and that 80% of it lies south of the bridge, where the tallest sailboats are berthed. They already have most of the lake at their disposal.

Item: The height of the bridge is not responsible for the fact that Great Sacandaga has fewer sailboats than Lake George. Lake George has been a popular tourist attraction for three centuries vs. just 76 years for Great Sacandaga. More important, sailboaters on Lake George don't have to contend with wildly see-sawing water levels. Remember the mess at Great Sacandaga last June 30 when its level hit a record high, sending 3.5 feet of water surging over the dam's spillway? The solution to attracting more sailboats to Great Sacandaga is not to raise the bridge to unreasonable heights. It's to reform or remove the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District.

Item: The narrow neck of the lake where the bridge is located does not offer good sailing. You seldom see a tall sailboat anywhere near the bridge. Last June, sailboaters were supposed to hold a long-distance race from Mayfield to the bridge and back. Because of the lack of wind, they sailed to the closer Northville Bridge instead. Last September, they were supposed to hold a rally at the bridge. 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.)

Item: If sailboaters say that the grade on the highest alternative would not be significant, remind them that many people have horror stories about driving across the flat existing bridge when it's icy and windy. As for the grade, just 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 alternative would put County Route 98. Want to drive that slope in bad weather? Driver safety comes first. Keep that arch low.

Item: If sailboaters introduce a study showing that the highest alternative would have significant economic impact on Fulton County by attracting more sailboaters to the lake, keep in mind that such studies are notorious for being biased and inflated in favor of their sponsor. Remind them that a steep arch presents a safety threat in winter weather. Ask them if the promise of a greater profit offsets the value of a child's life.

Finally, if you can't make the meeting -- or even if you can -- it would be immensely helpful if you would send DOT a letter expressing your opinion. Mail it to Erica Rousseau, P.E., Project Manager, NYS Department of Transportation, 328 State Street, Schenectady, NY 12305.