Press-Republican

June 8, 2013

Essex County gets $6 million in federal bridge aid

BY LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County is getting $6 million in federal aid money for four county bridge projects scheduled to start this year.

One of the main projects is the remote Tahawus Road Bridge in Newcomb, where repairs have been estimated to cost $1.4 million.

Although the span leads to a dead-end road that goes through the ghost town of Adirondac, it serves the Upper Works State Trailhead that’s one of the busiest in the park.

Tahawus Road (County Route 25) connects to Upper Works Road leading to the trailhead, and the bridge spans the Hudson River where that waterway is little more than a stream.

The Upper Works Trailhead to Mount Marcy, Indian Pass and Lake Colden is situated at the end of Upper Works Road, and the large parking lot at the trailhead is often full on summer days.

“I drove out there, and I couldn’t believe the traffic,” Highway Superintendent Anthony LaVigne said. “The Upper Works trailhead is very popular.”

ESSEX CO. PAYS 5%

The Tahawus Road Bridge will remain open during the rehabilitation project, so hikers will still be able to access the Upper Works Trailhead, which was named for the iron smelting that once went on there.

“Tahawus Bridge will be phase construction, one lane at a time, because it is a dead-end road,” LaVigne said.

Essex County’s share of the project is 5 percent, which comes to $177,000, and was recently approved by the County Board of Supervisors. For the rest, the Federal Highway Administration will pitch in 80 percent, and State Department of Transportation will cover 15 percent of the cost.

U.S. Vice President Teddy Roosevelt was staying at the Tahawus Club in 1901 when he had to make his legendary trip from Newcomb to the North Creek Train Station after President William McKinley was assassinated.

WILL USE FUND BALANCE

Another big bridge project included in the $6 million federal aid is replacement of the Moriah Center Bridge in Moriah, with the final design package approved and bids due June 21.

That project is also 95 percent federal- and state-funded.

That span, on Plank Road (County Route 7), passes over Mill Brook and was built in 1920. Its replacement is estimated to cost about $1.7 million, and bids will be opened June 21.

The other two federal-aid bridge projects in design phase now are Mountain View Drive Bridge in Essex’s Reber hamlet and Elk Drive Bridge in Ticonderoga.

LaVigne said the highway budget’s fund balance will cover the county share of the federal-aid work, which is $377,000.

“We have to be to the construction phase, have bids awarded by October, to meet the federal fiscal year or we lose the funds,” he told the County Board of Supervisors recently. 

“Unfortunately, during the (2013) budget process, we did not allocate these funds. We didn’t have the $377,000 in our budget. 

“I do have a healthy enough fund balance to take it from there.”

BRIDGE BOND

Sprague Mill Bridge on Ensign Pond Road in Moriah is awaiting replacement, but that federal money hasn’t been awarded yet. Until the bridge is replaced, a temporary crossing is in place on Ensign Pond Road, which connects Moriah to North Hudson and the Adirondack Northway.

The Adirondack Loj Road Bridge over South Meadow Brook in North Elba will also be replaced this year, and a temporary span will be installed during construction.

That bridge accesses the Adirondack Loj, operated by the Adirondack Mountain Club at Heart Lake. Bids for that project will be opened June 26, and contract specifications state it must be finished by Oct. 18.

A county bridge bond will pay for that work.

The bridges at Tahawus Road, Moriah Center, Mountain View Drive and the Sprague Mill span were all damaged by Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com