EDINBURG - One-lane traffic and special traffic lights no longer are needed. The new Batchellerville Bridge opened Thursday - one year ahead of schedule.
Residents rejoiced with car horns, celebrating the new wider and taller bridge that no longer will require tractor-trailers to drive 35 miles out of the way. Previously, the trucks had to do that as a result of the 15-ton weight limit on the former bridge.
Harrison & Burrowes Bridge Constructors' workers battled tropical storms and flooding in 2011 to get the bridge built. Over the last two weeks, they were been finishing the final touches on the $46.7 million bridge.
The Leader-Herald/Bill Trojan
Cars go over the new Batchellerville Bridge this morning. The bridge opened Thursday.
"It was a very exciting moment," said Jeff DiStefano, Harrison & Burrowes co-owner, referring to the bridge opening. "Everybody who worked on the job was very excited after all the work they put into it to see traffic run over it. It was a very big moment for my guys. And the horns were beeping. It was very exciting for everyone in the town, [too]."
Town Supervisor Jean Raymond said people are happy the bridge is open.
"It was a quarter to three, they moved the barrels out of the way of the new bridge, barricaded the old bridge and started directing traffic to the new bridge," she said. "When people realized it was open and they were directed to it, they would smile, raise their thumb or fist-pump."
Aside from the weather troubles, DiStefano said the next toughest part in building the bridge was the beginning of the project when the crew had to build 12 cofferdams, which are temporary enclosures used for drying out areas under water so crews can work.
"I guess the challenge was working in the water," he said. "When we had to build those 12 cofferdams, it's definitely a challenge when you're working 30 feet below water level. It was the largest project we've ever completed or held."
When Raymond arrived at the bridge Thursday afternoon, she heard a story of a delivery guy who would have had to
take a detour because of the weight limit on the old bridge.
"I think one of the interesting stories I heard yesterday was there was a gas delivery truck on the Edinburg side. He had to go to Broadalbin, and it would have taken him an hour," she said. "He was told he can go over the new bridge. It's open. He didn't have to take an hour [trip]. He could just go over the bridge, and he would be fine. I think that pretty much sums it up."
During the final two weeks, the workers had their vehicles on the bridge, but had to finish miscellaneous paving and put sealant on the bridge.
The new bridge has wide lanes, a wide bike path and wide sidewalks.
Demolition of the old bridge is scheduled for next summer.
DiStefano said he thanked his workers Thursday.
"I told them, 'Great job guys. Great job,'" he said. "There were some highs. There were some lows. With all the rain, it threw us off. [But it was] just a tremendous effort of the 35 guys that spent the summer there. I take my hat off to them.
"[And] the people have been wonderful. They've stopped on a number of occasions. They said, 'Nice job. You're doing clean work.' People often walked across the old bridge and were very complementary of my guys."
The bridge carries Route 98 over the Great Sacandaga Lake.
The bridge originally was scheduled to open to traffic in fall 2013, the state Department of Transportation said.
"This new bridge accommodates larger, heavier vehicles, allows motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to cross the Great Sacandaga Lake safely, and its increased height better meets the needs of lake users, tourists and permanent and seasonal residents," DOT Commissioner McDonald said. "Completing the bridge a full year ahead of schedule is a great accomplishment for the Department, the contractor and, most of all, for the motorists who rely on this bridge every day to get to work or enjoy the lake."
The new bridge was built directly to the south of the former 80-year-old structure. The center-span of the bridge has a vertical clearance of 42 feet above the water, which is 27 feet higher than the old structure and allows more room for recreational vessels to pass underneath. The height of the new structure accommodates larger sail boats that use the lake, while not disturbing scenic skyline views.
The new bridge features two 11-foot-wide travel lanes, two five-foot-wide shoulders and a five-foot-wide raised sidewalk on the north side of the bridge.
During construction, traffic used the old bridge, which only allowed alternating one-way traffic controlled by a signal and had a 15-ton weight limit. Once the construction and demolition contract has been completed, the new bridge will be owned and maintained by Saratoga County.
The project was 80 percent federally funded, with the remaining 20 percent investment coming from the state.