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Cost for bridge exceeds budget

November 21, 2008
By KAYLEIGH KARUTIS, The Leader-Herald

EDINBURG - Bids for the construction of a new Batchellerville Bridge have arrived, and they are approximately $25 million more than what state officials had expected.

The bids were opened by state Department of Transportation officials Thursday, and the low bid was $64.1 million, from Chemung Contracting of Elmira. Another bid from Kubricky Construction of Glens Falls came in at $66.4 million.

Officials had budgeted about $39 million for the project.

DOT spokesman Peter VanKeuren said DOT has several options, but is not sure what it will do.

"When bids come in much higher than what we estimated, we look at the bid to make sure it's accurate and thorough, and call the bidder to ask questions, like why certain things were priced a certain way," he said. "We also look at our design package to make sure we made appropriate estimates."

The DOT has 45 days to make a decision. Officials can reject the bids and revamp their design or accept the low bid. The latter option is not viable until the state figures out where the extra $25 million would come from, VanKeuren said.

"One of our options is to go back to the design and see if there is anything we could delete," he said.

The current bridge is 78 years old and has been deteriorating for years. It is about 3,000 feet long and connects the two halves of Edinburg. It is heavily traveled, particularly in the summer, when seasonal visitors and tourists are in the area.

According to the DOT Web site, the new bridge includes a 42-foot clearance above the lake, which is higher than the current bridge but lower than an earlier proposal of 50-plus feet. The earlier proposal was vilified by residents and officials, who said it was unnecessary and possibly unsafe.

The proposal includes lighting along the bridge, two travel lanes, two 5-foot shoulders and a raised sidewalk on the north side.

Edinburg Supervisor Jean Raymond said she was surprised by the $25 million overage.

"I'm very disappointed," she said.

Raymond said the DOT and bidders must evaluate every aspect of the bids and the design to see where money could be saved.

"Maybe they need to partner with the Hudson River-Black River Regulating District," she said. "Some of the cost of the bid is removing the old bridge, and maybe they shouldn't remove it right away, just close it or make it available just for walking."

There are a number of areas that need to be examined, she said.

"They have to look at everything," she said. "I understand the state has financial difficulties, but they also have a responsibility to the people. There are huge public safety and financial issues if the bridge were to close. Having a safe bridge is the most important thing."

Van Keuren said he believes the economic climate is to blame for the higher-than-expected bids.

"It's not really a surprise in light of the fact of the world as it is today," he said. "There's an uncertainty out there and I'm sure the [construction companies] were keeping that in mind."

The DOT recognizes the importance of the bridge to its local economy, VanKeuren said. While the bridge is currently deemed safe for travel, if that changes, DOT officials may be forced to close one side or the entire bridge. He said he hopes that does not happen, considering the bridge is used by thousands of tourists, visitors and residents.

"We realize [closing the bridge] would cause a big impact on business and tourists and residents of the area," he said. "It's an important bridge, but in the same respect is has to be safe for it to be used. If in our next inspection we see advanced deterioration that needs work, we will act accordingly."

The bridge has been steadily deteriorating and has nearly reached the end of its useful life, VanKeuren said. The DOT has been doing repairs and maintenance on it for years in order to keep it operating safely.

"We've gone through a lot of repair work just to keep it open," he said.

Kayleigh Karutis covers Gloversville news. She can be reached at gloversville@leaderherald.com.

 
 

 

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