By CARLA KOLBE
For the Recorder
EDINBURG -- In an unexpected move by the New York State Department of Transportation, the new Batchellerville Bridge was opened to traffic approximately 2:30 p.m. Thursday afternoon with no pomp nor circumstance. A few barriers were simply moved, and the traffic was redirected to move across the newly completed span.
Organized at the last moment, a few emergency vehicles and a local Edinburg dignitaries managed to be the first to make the significantly historic initial passage over the bridge.
The first vehicle across was an Edinburg Fire Company fire truck, driven by Lt. Alex Rockwell.
"Love it. It's gonna make people very happy they won't have to wait five minutes at a time to just to cross the Sacandaga," said Rockwell.
Not long after Rockwell, Edinburg town Supervisor Jean Raymond crossed over the newly completed project. Her first passage was quite notable because it culminated everything so many worked so hard to bring together.
"The first drive over was amazing, it really brought to life the significance this project has on the community," said Raymond. It was amazing, it felt so good, so comfortable, so right."
Raymond said the bridge is about the future and is integral to the community and businesses.
"It's economic development, Adirondack-style" remarked Raymond.
With the bridge open, and the weight restrictions lifted, all traffic is now able to move swiftly across the Great Sacandaga Lake, saving themselves 35 extra miles.
A highly anticipated grand opening was expected by the local community, but at about 10:15 a.m. Thursday morning, Raymond was notified by the NYSDOT that their priority was to get the bridge open for traffic, but any ceremony was not going to happen as they were unable to get all the approvals.
The Edinburg community, and committees such as the Bridge of Life, had planned a community walk, send home permission slips with Edinburg Common School students to go across the bridge, and had a reception planned at the fire house, tentatively for Monday following a ceremony.
"I feel a little bit cheated," said Edinburg resident Gail Weigel. "I took Monday off from works and planned on walking with my daughter across the bridge."
Upon hearing about the last minute bridge opening, Weigel grabbed her camera, made her way to the bridge and walked it by herself. "I just had to do something to mark the moment' Weigel added.
DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald announced in a press release Thursday the early completion of a $46.7 million project to replace the Batchellerville Bridge carrying Saratoga County Highway 98 over the Great Sacandaga Lake. The bridge was originally scheduled to be opened to traffic in the fall of 2013 but was completed one year ahead of schedule.
"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," 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.
In order for the roadway approaches to transition smoothly onto the new bridge, work was done from the Wessels Road intersection west of the bridge to the intersection of South Shore Road, Saratoga County Highway 7, east of the bridge. The "Y" intersection at South Shore Road was reconstructed as a T-type intersection.
Work began in the summer of 2010, with bridge completion scheduled for the fall of 2013 and total project completion scheduled for the summer of 2014. The construction contractor was given ample time to complete the project, but due to their aggressive work schedule and an easy winter, the bridge was able to be built a full year ahead of schedule. Demolition of the former bridge can now occur next year, allowing the overall project to be completed in 2013, also one year ahead of the planned 2014 completion.
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 New York state.
The construction contractor for the project is Harrison and Burrowes Bridge Constructors of Glenmont, Albany County. The old bridge, which is now closed to traffic, will be demolished next year.
NYSDOT will continue to have a presence at the bridge site completing the project until at least next summer. Once the project is complete, the bridge will officially be turned over to Saratoga County.