By HEATHER NELLIS
Recorder News Staff
Repairs to the parallel bridges on Route 5S that link the towns of Glen and Florida across the Schoharie Creek are scheduled to start in the next three weeks, according to the state Department of Transportation.
That work won't require the department to implement a detour, as it originally planned, said regional spokesman James Piccola.
"There will be no off-site detour. We heard some concerns about that from emergency personnel, so we listened to what the community had to say to make them happy about how that work is done," he said.
Local firefighters like Glen Department Chief Jd Downing aired their concerns at an April 2012 meeting that indicated both bridges would be closed simultaneously. They said it would have created problems with responders' ability to provide services in a timely manner.
"They must have taken what we said seriously," Downing said.
Piccola said repairs to the "old" bridge will be conducted first, and when that's complete it will be opened to one-lane alternating traffic controlled by lights at either side.
A single bearing needs to be replaced, Piccola said, which will require the structure to be lifted a quarter- to half-of-an-inch to remove it, repair it and slide it back in.
Once that bridge is re-opened, Piccola said the "new" bridge, known as the former West Shore Railroad Bridge, will be closed to traffic for repairs, and stay closed until after it receives a paint job in the spring.
Sixteen of the railroad bridge's bearings need to be replaced, Piccola said, and a new concrete cap has to be poured.
Once the railroad bridge's repairs are completed, traffic will be reverted back to it, and the truss bridge will again be used as part of the Erie Canalway Trail for pedestrians and recreational vehicles.
The railroad bridge was originally used as part of the trail, and the neighboring bridge used for vehicular traffic, but their uses were reversed last year. The truss bridge was closed by the department due to extensive damage from flooding during Tropical Storm Irene in 2011.
The bridge had already been reduced to one-way alternating traffic that spring in light of a December 2010 inspection, which indicated significant structural deterioration.
The work that's expected to start soon is considered by DOT officials to be the most cost-effective solution, because replacing the bridge altogether, including approach work, could cost as much as $11 million.
These two bridge projects comprise half of a four-bridge project lumped together for even further savings, said Piccola. Other work includes a bridge in Utica, and the Route 80 bridge in Fort Plain.
The work in that Montgomery County village will start after the close of school, and be completed before school starts again, Piccola said.