VERMONTVILLE - Officials had hoped to keep the county Route 48 bridge over the Saranac River open while they replaced it, but due to lack of funding, they're likely going to have to close the bridge as they work on it.
Franklin County Highway Superintendent Jonathan Hutchins and Barton and Loguidice project engineer Bryan M. Tremblay hosted a public information session during the Franklin town board meeting Wednesday.
Tremblay noted that while this option may be the most cost effective, it will also likely have the biggest impact on the people who live in the area. He said they are looking for as much input as they can get from local people to make sure they're considering every obstacle that may be a problem for locals if the bridge closes.
This bridge on Franklin County Route 48, Franklin Falls Road, is the most dangerous in the county and needs to be replaced, but officials say there’s no affordable way to keep it open during construction.
Tremblay and Hutchinson told the townspeople gathered that since the bridge will have to close, they will put the project on an accelerated timetable so it will take two months, rather than the six or seven months it would normally take.
The plan is to do the project during mud season, since that will be after traffic to Whiteface Mountain in Wilmington dies out and not as many people are traveling that road. County Route 48, also known as Franklin Falls Road, is the most direct way to Wilmington from the Franklin and Bloomingdale areas. Officials want to start construction in April 2013 and have it completed by June 2013.
The existing bridge was originally built in 1949, Tremblay said. When DOT and the county started working on plans to replace it, it was the 10th worst bridge in the county, but it has now taken the top spot as the worst.
To submit comment on the project:
Franklin County Highway Superintendent Jonathan Hutchins
State Department of Transportation Project Manager Timothy Valentine
Barton and Loguidice project engineer Bryan M. Tremblay
Correspondence regarding ths project should make reference to PIN 7752.70.
"The structure has been flagged numerous times," Tremblay said.
That means the DOT could shut the bridge down entirely at any time, and that could easily happen if officials decide to wait until there's money to replace the bridge while keeping it open.
"And then you guys would be stuck with no bridge for two years until we could get the funding to do it that way," Tremblay said.
Hutchins re-emphasized that the county has no money, saying his budget has been cut excessively.
"It's either that or nothing," Hutchins said. "It's grim, but it's the only way it's going to happen."
A new bridge would have a 75-year life expectancy, Tremblay said.
He said the current bridge sees a couple hundred cars a day, and about 4 percent of that traffic is logging trucks. He said that during mud season, logging trucks shouldn't be an issue because they probably won't be operating when the ground is soft and muddy.
When town Supervisor Art Willman asked what the detour would be, Tremblay said, "None." He noted there are a few ways to go around, including going through Lake Placid or Silver Lake, but they are wide detours.
One member of the public in attendance asked whether there were school children whose bus routes would be affected by the construction. Tremblay said he wasn't sure, but he would look into it. He said that's the kind of input he's looking for.
At the end of the presentation, board members said it sounded like Tremblay, Hutchins and their colleagues had taken everything into consideration.
Hutchins, Tremblay and the state Department of Transportation are taking comments on the project until Wednesday, Aug 22.