Replace or repair? For rail-trail bridge, it could mean millions

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Whether it is repaired or replaced, a significant amount of concrete work will have to be done to the bridge’s retaining walls and sidewalks.

SLINGERLANDS — The crumbling century-old bridge that runs over New Scotland Avenue in Slingerlands is finally getting some sorely-needed attention.

Albany County acquired the bridge 2009, as part of its purchase of the nine-mile stretch of railway that runs between the Port of Albany and Voorheesville, which today is known as Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail-Trail.

The four proposals to either repair or replace the bridge range in cost from $1.2 million to $4.4 million.

Built in 1912, the bridge has been in rough shape for some time.

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.”

Finally, in 2018, in response to a report by MJ Engineering and Land Surveying, the county made temporary repairs and began the process to either replace the bridge or repair it.

Project objectives

At the May 1 public meeting, Michael Panichelli, president of MJ Engineering and Land Surveying, the project’s engineer, said there were seven objectives that the county hoped to achieve by rehabbing or replacing the bridge, including:

— Providing a bridge that exceeds minimum safety standards: If the bridge were to be repaired, it would have an expected service life of 35 years and would come with hefty annual maintenance costs. A replacement bridge would have a service life of 75 years and maintenance costs one-fourth of what it would cost to maintain the rehabbed bridge;

— Addressing the bridge’s “geometric vulnerabilities and deficiencies,” which would address the bridge’s physical shortcomings, for example, the concrete piers on which the structure’s columns are placed. Those piers jut into the street, which narrows the road under the bridge;

— Providing a structure that fits in with its surroundings and maintains public safety;

— Limiting the project’s impact on nearby properties;

— Improving “existing facilities and services using cost-effective measures”;

— Providing sidewalks that are compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; and

— Ensuring that a 10,000-pound vehicle can travel over the bridge, which would allow an ambulance on the trail.

Panichelli said there had been a hand count performed to gauge the number of large trucks that travel under the bridge on a given day. On the day the count was performed, 14 large trucks — garbage, box, large delivery, and 18-wheeler — traveled under the bridge.

According to data from New York State, about 9,850 vehicles each day travel on the portion of New Scotland Road that runs under the rail-trail bridge.

Proposed fixes

Panichelli said there were four proposals for the bridge — two would replace it and two would rehabilitate it. He called the replacement options alternatives 3A and 3B, while the rehabilitation options were called alternatives 2A and 2B.

To replace the bridge with either alternative 3A or 3B would take a month; repairing the bridge would take four to five months to complete.

In addition to construction costs, the annual maintenance costs of rehabilitating the bridge would be between $77,000 and $125,000; for a replacement bridge, the maintenance costs would be at most $25,000 per year.

To pay to repair or replace the bridge, the county would have to bond the project.

Rehab

Alternative 2A, with an estimated cost between $2.7 million and $3.2 million, would:

— Replace the bridge’s columns as well as any floor beams that are damaged or deteriorating;

— Repair the web (the vertical piece of steel between the two horizontal pieces) of the main girder;

— Repair any ancillary steel members in the structure;

— Repair, replace, or resurface the concrete retaining walls, abutments, and sidewalks; and

— Abate any lead paint and painting all the steel.

Alternative 2B, which would cost between $3.9 million and $4.4 million, would do everything in Alternative 2A, plus the bridge would be raised to 15 feet, 6 inches to meet state requirements; the existing vertical clearance is 12, feet 2 inches. In addition, there would be concrete work to compensate for raising the bridge.

Replace

Alternative 3A, with an estimated cost between $1.4 million and $1.9 million, would:

— Remove the 42-foot wide existing bridge and replacing it with a two-girder structure that is 14-feet wide,

— Raise the structure to 15 feet, 6 inches above the roadway to meet state requirements;

— Construct new concrete abutments behind the existing retaining wall;

— Resurface the retaining walls;

— Modify the sidewalks along New Scotland Road; and

— Paint the new structure.

Alternative 3B, which would cost between $1.2 million and $1.7 million, would include all of the same work as 3A except the new bridge would be a truss system, not two large girders.

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