SARANAC LAKE - Village officials aren't happy with the state Department of Transportation's design for a replacement pedestrian bridge over LaPan Highway.
Speaking at Monday night's village board meeting, Trustee Tom Catillaz said DOT plans to install a bridge that's nearly identical to the concrete and steel beam span that used to be there, galvanized fencing and all. The center span of that bridge was demolished last summer after it was hit and damaged - for the second time in roughly a year - by a piece of heavy equipment being towed on a trailer. Its abutments are still standing.
"I've asked (village Manager) John Sweeney, and he's done this twice I believe, to go back to the engineers and ask them for something a little nicer than what was there, because that's what they're going to put back there," Catillaz said. "This is the entrance to our village, one of the busier entrances, and that thing is ugly. There's no way to beat around the bush."
Saranac Lake village police Chief Bruce Nason, left, and a state Department of Transportation worker look at the underside of the pedestrian bridge over LaPan Highway on Aug. 30, 2012, after it was hit by a piece of heavy equipment being towed on a trailer.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
Catillaz said the state has built more decorative pedestrian bridges, including some with roofs, in other parts of the state.
"I think we need to proceed with pushing them into giving us something a little more attractive than a huge, concrete - I don't know what term to put on it," he said. "It is ugly. We need something a little nicer."
The discussion came as the board considered signing a resolution to approve construction of the bridge DOT has designed, and agreeing that the village would be responsible for snow and ice removal on the new span.
Mayor Clyde Rabideau suggested, and the board unanimously agreed, to modify the resolution to ask the state to amend its plan and design a bridge "that's more attractive and keeping with Adirondack architecture."
"I agree with Tom," said Trustee Allie Pelletieri. "We should treat them like we treat any business coming into the village. We make businesses go to the (village) Planning Board and have things put the way our comprehensive plan, the way the people in the village want it. We should definitely request the state do the same."
Rabideau said the village would essentially be withholding its approval of the agreement with DOT to maintain the bridge until an improved design is presented.
If DOT put a roof over the pedestrian bridge, the village wouldn't need to worry about keeping it clear of snow and ice, said village Attorney Charles Noth.
Sweeney told the Enterprise after the meeting that he's already asked officials from Watertown-based DOT Region 7 to redesign the bridge and has sent the agency Internet links to images of other, more attractive pedestrian bridges.
"We've expressed it either two or three times, and sent them the links saying this is what we'd like," he said. "Basically, what keeps coming back is here's what you get."
Rabideau said DOT's current design is "reminiscent of federal penitentiary style from the early 1980s.
"They're giving us the big ugly," he said.
DOT Region 7 spokesman Michael Flick confirmed this morning to the Enterprise that the agency has designed a bridge that's similar to the one that was removed, although it will be higher. He said it's already been put out to bid, with a contract for $160,000 awarded recently to Luck Brothers Inc. of Plattsburgh.
"We looked at alternate designs to try to do some kind of simulated truss," he said. "Quite honestly, from our perspective they were expensive and they didn't provide for much of a gateway structure. I remember seeing some of the renderings, and it looked like you had a truss stuck between two portions of an old bridge on the end."
Flick said there's also a time sensitivity to getting the bridge replaced. It had been used by students to get back and forth between the French Hill neighborhood and Petrova Elementary and the Saranac Lake Middle School.
"We decided to do what we did," Flick said. "It's going to be a relatively quick and inexpensive fix. The job is scheduled to be done by the time school is done (in June), and then we can revisit the idea of a signature gateway bridge at some point in the future."
Asked if the village withholding approval of the agreement could stall or stop the project, Flick said he wasn't sure.
After the bridge was closed to pedestrian use in September 2011, students used a new crosswalk at the Dorsey Street intersection to get across the highway, although some still take their chances crossing traffic near the bridge.
Last summer, DOT installed pedestrian beacons at the new Dorsey Street crosswalk. The beacons provide motorists a flashing yellow light indicating that the crosswalk is in use.
Contact Chris Knight at 891-2600 ext. 24 or firstname.lastname@example.org.