County to finally begin work on replacing rail-trail bridge

Enterprise file photo — Michael Koff
The century-old railroad bridge over New Scotland Road is finally being replaced. Work clearing trees is to begin on March 6.

ALBANY COUNTY — Starting on Monday, March 6, trees are being removed to prepare for replacing the bridge on the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail.

The project, replacing a deteriorating century-old railroad bridge with a bridge for pedestrians, has been several years getting underway as trucks have continued to get stuck underneath it.

For three weeks, lanes on New Scotland Road (State Route 85) will be closed intermittently in Slingerlands each weekday between 7 a.m and 5 p.m., according to a release from the county.

A temporary rail-trail pedestrian detour will be constructed for future use. Updates are to be posted by the Albany County Department of Public works here.

The bridge — signs show its height to be 11 feet, 2 inches — has been repeatedly struck by trucks.

Albany County acquired the bridge in 2009, as part of its purchase of the nine-mile stretch of railway that runs between the Port of Albany and Voorheesville.

Built in 1912, the bridge has been in rough shape for some time. In 2019, the county said the bridge had been struck by vehicles passing beneath it nine times in the past 11 years. And it has been struck several more times since.

A 2008 report said that the bridge’s structural steel and much of its concrete were in “very poor condition.”

A 2017 inspection by the New York State Department of Transportation said that the structure was in such bad shape, its deficiencies could “significantly impact” the bridge’s “load carrying capacity.” In 2018, the county made temporary repairs to the bridge.

And in 2019, the county decided on a $1.9 million plan to remove the 42-foot wide existing bridge and replace it with a two-girder structure that is 14-feet wide, raising the structure to 15 feet, 6 inches above the roadway to meet state requirements.

Construction on the new bridge was to start in the summer of 2020 but was delayed by both the pandemic and litigation.

The Enterprise reported last year that the cost had about doubled from the original $1.9 million because of legal challenges and having to relocate buried cable.

Albany County spokeswoman Mary Rozak last year attributed the project-cost spike to a variety of factors: increased material costs, specifically steel prices; the additional $250,000 needed to relocate Sprint’s fiber-optic cable; and another unaccounted and not factored for $320,000 needed for drainage work on New Scotland Road, for which the state will reimburse the county. 

Accounting for cable relocation and drainage work, the new bridge appears to have an estimated cost of $4.1 million, more than doubling the original projection.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

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