Friday, 05 August 2016 09:52

A Bridge Too Far? NYS DOT Deliberating Fate of Nelson Ave. Ext. Bridge

By Maureen Werther | News
SARATOGA SPRINGS — The recent news that the NYS Department of Transportation (DOT) may consider demolishing the Nelson Avenue Extension bridge has caused an uproar in the surrounding communities of Saratoga and Malta. Built in 1960, the bridge serves as a main route for residents on the east side of the Northway who travel into the city of Saratoga Springs for business, medical needs, school and social activities. Upon hearing the news, concerned citizens in the community immediately began circulating a petition to raise awareness of the DOT’s intentions and try to put a stop to the proposed plan. They cited a number of reasons why it is critical that the bridge remain in place and the DOT opt for repair rather than demolition. Suzanne Balet-Height, author of the “Save the Bridge” petition, noted that, in addition to regular traffic for purposes of business or recreation, the bridge serves as a critical access route for emergency vehicles that would otherwise be forced to use other, more dangerous routes, such as Kaydeross Avenue East. The petition also cited the many new real estate developments that have been built on the east side of the Northway and the negative impact the bridge closure would have, on both increased traffic congestion in rural areas where residents live with the expectation of privacy, as well as on future sales of homes in the area. Small local businesses and farms would feel the economic effects of the bridge closure, and people in the Saratoga Springs community who use the bridge to travel to these farms and businesses may discontinue their patronage of those businesses if the bridge is removed. Balet-Height noted in her petition, “For more than 70 years, residents of Saratoga Springs and Malta have travelled between the two municipalities for both social and business reasons. If the bridge closes, people who use this extension to dine and shop in these respective cities may switch their business to a more convenient locale – resulting in lost sales for many of our businesses.” The Nelson Avenue Extension bridge has also been an historically popular route for cyclists, runners and walkers, who use it to access locations such as Malta Avenue Extension and Rowley Road. The lighter automobile traffic on the bridge makes it a much more attractive alternative for athletes and sports enthusiasts, and it has been the designated route for annual fundraising rides/walks such as the Tour De Cure, the Team Billy Ride and Walk for Research and for local cycling clubs who use the route on their weekly group rides. The petition also mentioned the fact that many horse farms are located on the east side of the Northway. The increased time it would take for horse owners, trainers and staff to travel between their farms and the racetrack will add to the traffic on other, more rural routes and increase travel time to the track. In a recent phone interview, Saratoga County Supervisor, Matthew Veitch said he planned to write a letter to the DOT, urging them not to demolish the bridge. “This is an extremely important route for cars, cyclists, and walkers,” he said. He referred to Kaydeross Avenue East, the alternative route people would be forced to use, as “far less safe and more difficult to get through,” noting that it would cause a public safety issue for both residents along that route as well as for motorists, cyclists, and walkers. Kaydeross Avenue Extension is a much narrower road with no shoulder for walkers or cyclists. He went on to stress that the existing route is vital when responding to Malta medical emergencies. When contacted by phone, Bryan Viggiani, Public Information Officer for the DOT, said that “Absolutely no decisions have been made at this time.” His office released a statement, noting that, “The DOT is having conversations with elected leaders and studying all options.” The statement also said that, “While safe to the traveling public, the bridge is approaching the end of its useful life and becoming more costly to maintain. The estimated cost to replace the Nelson Avenue Extension bridge is $5.5 million. That does not include future maintenance costs after a new bridge is built and opened. As bridges age and are in need of greater service and possible replacement, we perform due diligence in studying all options as responsible stewards of the taxpayers’ money.” Viggiani said that they would hold a meeting sometime in the fall that will be open to the public to continue discussion about the bridge’s future. No decision will be reached before then. The date of the meeting has yet to be determined.
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