LEADER-HERALD
Gloversville, NY
April 25, 2007

Support shown for lower bridge plan
Residents speak at Batchellerville Bridge hearing

By GREG HITCHCOCK, The Leader-Herald

NORTHVILLE - Residents from around the Great Sacandaga Lake urged state officials to accept a plan calling for 42 feet of clearance under the Batchellerville Bridge when it is replaced starting in 2008.

Local residents were unanimously in support of the design at a public meeting sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation at Northville Central School Tuesday. The DOT is scheduled to replace the existing 77-year-old structure with a new bridge. The project is expected to last until 2011.

The plan calls for 42 feet of clearance at the center span to allow sailboats to pass underneath. The plan was informally agreed upon in 2002 by the project's advisory group of volunteers and the DOT. Other options that were discussed in 2002 were a lower bridge with 35 feet of clearance and a higher bridge with 55 feet of clearance.

"In winter, when the lake is down 20 feet, you'll see those ugly concrete piers in all their glory," Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee founder Peter VanAvery said. "If DOT builds the highest option, those piers will be 75 feet out of the water in winter taller than a seven-story building. Your vehicle will be 83 feet above the ice."

VanAvery asked why thousands of drivers should have to struggle up and down a steep arch all winter for the next 50 years to accommodate a limited number of sailboaters in summer.

"Safety first, not recreation first," Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee member Marilyn Sargent said.

Sargent said posted speed limits also should be placed on the bridge for safety reasons.

VanAvery's wife, Annalisa, also a member of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee, said she was grateful to the DOT for including a sidewalk in the design plans. This sidewalk would be on the north side of the bridge and be lighted at night.

"I believe that more people will walk out on that bridge to enjoy the view than will ever sail large boats beneath it," she said. "We believe it will be very popular and beneficial, providing safety for walkers, which we don't have now."

Peter Byron, president of the Great Sacandaga Lake Association, spoke of the economic benefits of a new bridge, which is estimated to cost $41.6 million and last 50 to 75 years.

"Six years ago, the GSLA joined with the Fulton County supervisors and the Fulton Chamber of Commerce to ask DOT to look at how we could receive the most economic benefit from this bridge. We never received an answer," Byron said.

"What if we could build a bridge that would stimulate development, bring jobs to the lake community and increase sales tax revenue for both Fulton and Saratoga counties?" he said.

Others said they were concerned about the durability of the bridge.

"I want the bridge to last more than 50 years. Hopefully, [it would last] 100 years," Bruce Palmateer said.

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond said the effect if the bridge was not replaced would be devastating to the town's emergency services and school. She said the Batchellerville Bridge was vital to the town, which the bridge divides in two.

"We are anxious to move the project forward," Raymond said.

Both the Edinburg Town Council and the Saratoga County Board of Supervisors passed resolutions in support of the compromise plan, which also calls for the bridge to be built south of the existing bridge.

According to DOT officials, traffic would be maintained on the existing bridge and on the existing roadways during the new bridge construction. No detours are anticipated.


DAILY GAZETTE
Schenectady, NY
April 25, 2007

GREAT SACANDAGA LAKE

Public wants state to replace Batchellerville Bridge quickly

BY JOE MAHER Gazette Reporter

Safety and aesthetics were two recurring themes as people spoke out on the proposed design of the new Batchellerville Bridge on Tuesday night.

About 100 people attended a public hearing conducted by the state Department of Transportation at Northville Central School. In addition to discussing safety and aesthetics, some speakers expressed a sense of urgency.

"I really do want to emphasize how important this bridge is. If we're divided because of this bridge ... we're going to be at a loss as to how to provide public safety for our community," Edinburg town Supervisor Jean Raymond said.

The 3,000-foot-long bridge, built in 1930, connects two sides of the town and is scheduled for replacement starting in 2008, DOT officials said.

Raymond said if the existing bridge were to fail or be further downgraded from the current 15-ton limit, children would have to ride an extra 35 miles daily to reach school. And commuters who rely on the bridge would face an extra 60 miles a day, she said.

"We are very, very anxious to move this project as quickly as possible," Raymond said. "And if you can get it open before 2011, it would be even better."

Jay Edwards, who owns a logging and timber business in Edinburg, said his trucks have not been able to use the bridge for at least 15 years. He invited officials to do the math: 25 to 30 extra miles to get around the Great Sacandaga Lake at four miles per gallon. People in the audience groaned.

"I'm in full endorsement," he said of the preferred alternative design, a 42-foot-wide structure to be built just south of the existing bridge with a 42-foot vertical clearance for boat traffic. "I think they've done a good job, and I want to see a bridge."

Annalisa VanAvery of the Batchellerville Bridge Action Committee thanked engineers for including a sidewalk in the plans. She said the BBAC was the first group to call for a sidewalk.

"I believe that more people will walk out on that bridge to enjoy the view than will ever sail large boats beneath it," she said.

Her husband, BBAC co-founder Peter VanAvery, also took aim at arguments that a higher span would allow more large boats to pass underneath. He said 850,000 vehicles will cross the bridge this year and many tens of thousands of tourists and property owners will enjoy the vista.

"The number of sailboats that can't cruise under the compromise design - about 30. That's a mighty small tail trying to wag a giant dog. That's not my concept of how a democracy should work," he said.

Peter Byron, president of the Great Sacandaga Lake Association, said his group is grateful to see work is close at hand after eight years of planning. But he repeated his calls for an economic-impact study of the different designs and vertical clearance options.

Byron said the GSLA, Fulton County Regional Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Fulton County Board of Supervisors asked for such a study six years ago, and it wasn't done.

"It's long overdue," he said.

Before taking public comments, DOT project manager Erica Gundrum and other officials outlined the work that has been done.

"Our project goal is to provide a bridge that is safe, efficient, environmentally sound and balances the needs of all users," she said.

John Davey, who works with DOT's real estate division, said two seasonal camps would have to be acquired by DOT for work to proceed. There would also be a small number of strips of land that would be needed for rights-of-way, he said.

DOT has established a Web site for the project and is accepting comments via e-mail and regular mail through May 4. The timetable calls for a final design report this summer, bidding next summer and for work to begin in fall 2008.

The existing span will remain open and be torn down after the new one opens in 2011, if the schedule holds.