By Molly Congdon
REXFORD — More than 120 people filled the Rexford Fire District’s John McLane Hose Co. on Oct. 14 to listen to and voice their opinions on a plan to replace the Rexford Bridge.
The state Department of Transportation, which sponsored the public information meeting, awarded Tioga Construction Co. a $33 million contract in July to design and build a new bridge carrying Route 146 over the Mohawk River between the towns of Niskayuna and Clifton Park.
On an easel in the front of the room sat a computer-generated model of the proposed four-lane, steel girder bridge that will replace the two-lane, rusted, iron truss span that literally shakes as traffic crosses.
State DOT project manager Tom Hoffman and his team gave a slideshow presentation full of bullet points, information and images to provide residents insight into the design, details on construction and the timeline for completion.
They explained four key elements to the project: replacing the bridge built in 1965; constructing a roundabout in place of a traffic signal at the intersection of Route 146 and Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna; widening Route 146 to four lanes between Aqueduct Road and Riverview Road in Rexford; and building a bike/pedestrian trail between Riverview Road and the Mohawk-Hudson-Bike-Hike Trail.
The main goal is to improve traffic flow and address the bumper-to-bumper traffic during morning and evening rush hours.
The team also highlighted many considerations taken during preliminary engineering and prior to final approval of the plan in August 2014, such as the roadway footprint, river navigation, pedestrian access, visual impact, construction noise, environmental impact, nearby historic properties including the long-buried walls of the old Erie Canal, and limited usage of private property.
Bridges in New York state recently received an overall grade of C- from the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Rexford Bridge has been rated as structurally deficient, with officials saying it would actually be more cost-effective to replace it than to maintain the current structure.
Design details are expected to be finalized by December, with construction to begin in April, continue through December 2016, then resume in April 2017, with completion expected later that year.
Many in attendance expressed concern about potential changes, including the roundabout and the addition of a left-turn lane for westbound traffic on Riverview Road.
“You have to cross three lanes to turn south on 146,” said Jim Wendt, 70, who lives on McLane Street. “At 5 o’clock, that’s death.”
All questions could not be answered at the forum because the design process has not yet been completed, officials said. However, comment sheets were also passed out prior to the meeting to collect additional input.