Schenectady, NY
August 11, 2009

One-way traffic looms for Batchellerville Bridge
Drivers will have to wait their turn starting next week

By Stephen Williams, Gazette Reporter

EDINBURG - By next week, the aging Batchellerville Bridge over Great Sacandaga Lake will be reduced to alternating one-way traffic.

The move is being made by Saratoga County officials after a recent state safety inspection found worsening structural problems with the bridge.

A system in which traffic lights at either end of the 3,000-foot bridge will control access should be in place early next week, Saratoga County Public Works Commissioner Joseph C. Ritchey said.

County officials on Monday announced the change after a state bridge inspection in June and July found 11 "red flag" safety issues and 40 less serious "yellow flags."

While dramatic, the action isn't necessarily a surprise to those who have been watching the bridge's ongoing deterioration.

"The 80-year-old bridge is wearing out and the inspection is showing that," said Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond.

The change raises the specter of the bridge being closed to all traffic before it can be replaced - something that would force people on the north side of the bridge or in Northville to make a 35-mile detour to reach the rest of Saratoga County and Capital Region cities.

"It will be catastrophic," Raymond said.

The "red flag" issues include flaking concrete at bridge joints and holes rusting through steel supports under the deck.

While "red flags" often require immediate action, Ritchey said these fall into a category requiring a response within six weeks.

The state Department of Transportation, after analyzing the results, recommended to Ritchey that the weight limit be reduced from the current 15 tons to nine tons or the bridge be made alternating one-way with a 15-ton limit.

Raymond said she preferred alternating one-way traffic to reducing the weight limit so school buses and fire trucks can continue to use it.

That's what Ritchey said he'll do, as soon as the necessary traffic lights are delivered.

The arrangement will mean lengthy delays for those at the red light. "There will be significant [light] cycle time," Ritchey acknowledged.

Anchored cones will be used to keep traffic in the center of the bridge, Ritchey said.

The speed limit on the bridge is now 55 mph, but Raymond said it should probably be 45 mph because of the bridge's condition.

The alternating lights are likely to remain for a considerable period of time plans for a new bridge are back with state DOT engineers for a redesign to lower the cost.

An ongoing ownership dispute means neither the county nor the state might be willing to make stop-gap repairs to the current span to get the weight limit changed.

Last year, after a decade of planning for a new bridge to be built south of the current span, construction bids came in $25 million higher than the $39 million in federal funding that is available.

A redesign intended to lower the cost is currently being done by DOT. Raymond indicated officials believe a new bridge could be built for $49 million, if the additional $10 million in funding were found.

Raymond said she's written to Gov. David Paterson about the funding and sent a letter to all town residents urging them to do so as well.

County officials have also had what Raymond called a "very positive" meeting with DOT officials.

"The important thing is to keep the ball moving forward with a new design," said county Public Works Committee Chairman Alan R. Grattidge, R-Charlton.

The current bridge was built in 1930 as part of the Great Sacandaga Reservoir flood control project.

As the bridge has shown signs of wear in the past 20 years, the state and county have disagreed over which is responsible for repairs and replacement.

The dispute hasn't ended, although the state has agreed to build a new bridge and the county has agreed it would own and maintain a new bridge.

"I don't see a whole lot of point in putting a lot of money into the bridge," Raymond said.

The county will be paying for the alternating light system.

Ritchey said it will initially rent the lights at a cost of $7,000 to $8,000 a month but then seek bids to buy the system at a likely cost of $70,000 to $80,000.

The system includes timers, traffic sensors and an override that would allow firefighters and other emergency personnel to control the lights when emergency access is needed, Ritchey said.

Gloversville, NY
August 11, 2009

Bridge limited to one-way traffic

By ZACH SUBAR, The Leader-Herald

EDINBURG - The Batchellerville Bridge will be open only to one-way traffic beginning next week in the wake of a recent inspection that revealed numerous problems with the deteriorating structure.

DOT spokesman Peter Van Keuren said last week the bridge received 11 red flags, which the DOT uses to represent relatively major problems, as part of an inspection completed last month. It also was given 40 yellow flags for less-severe issues. Many areas, including the bridge's trusses, are covered in rust.

The state told the county it either had to reduce the bridge's 15-ton weight limit or limit the bridge to one-way traffic, Van Keuren said today.

Saratoga County Department of Public Works Commissioner Joseph Ritchey said making the bridge one way will deactivate all the flags and allow the bridge to become better able to support the traffic traversing it.

Saratoga County decided to begin limiting the bridge to one-way traffic early next week. Temporary traffic signals will be placed at both sides of the structure. The signals will have sensors that will read traffic patterns on the bridge, which Ritchey said would improve traffic flow.

Cars will travel down the middle of the road. The rest of the road will be blocked off with orange traffic cones, and the speed limit may be reduced from 55 mph.

The measure is not temporary. Ritchey said the structure likely won't be reopened to two-lane traffic soon and, as it stands, may become a permanent one-way bridge.

"This is one year. Next year, we'll have many more [problems]," Ritchey said. "It doesn't seem like this bridge is in reparable condition."

Because of that, Ritchey said, he hopes funding for a new bridge will come sooner rather than later.

November construction bids for a new bridge came in well above the DOT's budget. The lowest bid, from Chemung Contracting of Pine City, Chemung County, was for $64.1 million, $25 million in excess of the $39 million the DOT had budgeted for the project.

Van Keuren said today the state has been working on a new bridge design that could substantially reduce the cost of a new bridge. He said the state is looking at pier designs that could change the way the bridge is structured.

"It's not the easiest thing to go out and build new piers out in the middle of the lake," Van Keuren said.

Ritchey said he has been told the state is attempting to get the bridge's cost down to $49 million.

Ritchey said the county would temporarily rent the lights at $8,000 per month, and eventually may consider buying the light system for about $80,000.

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond said it was not a surprise the bridge was becoming one way. She said the town would be able to handle the situation now, but said a new bridge needs to be built soon.

"It points out very clearly that this bridge is coming to the end of its useful life," Raymond said of the traffic limitation. "If there is no replacement bridge, there will come a day where it will not be one lane, it will be no lanes, and that will be catastrophic for the town."

State and county officials have been at loggerheads for years over who actually owns the bridge, and the disagreement has at times been a roadblock to some bridge repairs being completed. The state says the county should have jurisdiction over the bridge, while the county contends the opposite.

Ritchey said the county will pay for the lights now, but said he hopes the state will chip in at some point.

The bridge was built in 1930 and connects the two halves of Edinburg. It is heavily traveled, particularly by tourists during the summer.

Amsterdam, NY
August 12, 2009

Bridge to be cut down to one lane

By HEATHER NELLIS, Recorder News Staff

EDINBURG - As a result of the state Department of Transportation's evaluation of last month's Batchellerville Bridge inspection, Saratoga County has chosen to reduce the structure's use to one-way alternating traffic.

DOT Region 1 communicated with the Saratoga County Department of Public Works Monday that one of the first "red flags" the inspection yielded calls for a reduction in weight capacity or allotment for one-way traffic only. The bridge can only support nine tons for two-lane traffic or 15 tons for one-way.

"We always knew what the options were, but I didn't know if I was going to have to reduce the posting until [Monday]," county DPW Commissioner Joseph Ritchey said, noting the latter option was chosen because the bridge needs to be used as a route for school buses and emergency vehicles.

"We need to preserve whatever life is left in that bridge," Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond said.

DPW is waiting for traffic lights to be delivered and will be installed at either end of the bridge next week. The county is leasing the equipment for $8,000 a month, but expects to go out to bid for an outright purchase, approximately $80,000, "since the issue will probably go on for awhile," Ritchey said.

Raymond said the inspection produced 22 yellow flags, 12 red, and one safety. DOT spokesman Pete Van Keuren said there were 40 yellow flags and 11 red. Ritchey said there were 11 red, 36 yellow, and eight safety - the yellow flags a culmination of both this year's and last year's inspections.

"The exact numbers aren't critical, because this deactivates all of the flags," Ritchey said.

Ritchey said this year is the first that the inspection has produced red flags.

"There was a rapid deterioration in one year," he said.

Regardless, Van Keuren said, none of the flags were severe enough to require a response within 24 hours.

"Upon further investigation, it was decided that they may not need repair, and are fine as-is right now," Van Keuren said. However, action reducing the weight post is required by Aug. 17.

"[DOT] knows what we're doing, though," Ritchey said.

Ritchey said he would need a crystal ball in order to determine how long the one-way remedy would last before the bridge fails completely.

"I'll leave the detailed expertise in the state's hands," he said.

"Hopefully the one-way alternating traffic will suffice," Van Keuren said. "There's always next year's inspection. There are a lot of things that can happen, but we're encouraged the bridge can stay open with the one-way weight posting."

Van Keuren said DOT has documented all of the conditions, which "will be kept on record to have a base to work from." The full evaluation of the inspection won't be complete for several months.

"It's an old bridge. What can I say? But we want to work with Saratoga County to keep it open," he said."

DOT is still looking for ways to alter plans to replace the 80-year-old structure. The project bids came in $25 million over-budget in November 2008.

The proposed bridge design has a 42-foot center span, two 11-foot travel lanes, two 5-foot shoulders, and a 5.6-foot raised sidewalk on the north side of the bridge. Lighting on the bridge and approach roadways, as well as intersection improvements for CR-7 and CR-98, are included in the project. The low bid came in at $64.1 million. Both bids received were rejected in February.

"It's ongoing," Van Keuren said. "We're still taking another look at the existing design to reduce costs."