Betty Little

November 10, 2009

Want to focus attention on New York’s crumbling infrastructure

The sudden closure last month of a roughly half-mile bridge spanning Lake Champlain in Essex County points to the need to immediately address New York State’s deteriorating bridges and roadways.

Senators Betty Little, Hugh Farley, Roy McDonald, Thomas Libous and Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward today joined dozens of local officials and community members from Crown Point, Essex County and Edinburg, Saratoga County to rally support for critically important investments in bridge and roadway projects.

The lawmakers said there are 110 New York State bridges with a safety rating the same or worse than the bridge in Crown Point now deemed too dangerous for traffic, according to a New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) bridge safety report issued in May.  DOT’s 2010-2015 Capital Program Proposal indicates that without significant investment 1,526 bridges will become deficient over the next five years.

“The North Country communities I represent are reeling because of the bridge closure,” said Little.  “Thank goodness no one was killed as a result of the bridge failing.  But the closure has resulted in a state of emergency having to be declared and costly steps being taken to mitigate the financial impact on families and businesses. This is much more than an inconvenience, it is a real hardship.  The question many of us are wondering is where is the next Crown Point Bridge?”

“I have continued to call for prompt action to secure the additional funding needed to replace the aging Batchellerville Bridge,” said Senator Hugh T. Farley.  “This bridge plays a crucial role in the regional economy and in the lives of full-time and seasonal residents.  The current restrictions on the bridge, not to mention the threat of future closure, present serious public safety concerns.  The time to address this situation is now, rather than having to react to the traumatic impact of a closure, like in the Crown Point situation.  Both of these bridges are indicative of the broader problems that need to be addressed throughout the State."

"I want to thank Senator Little for her hard work and dedication to the public for the safety of our residents and I fully support her efforts,” said Senator McDonald.  “It’s disappointing that downstate leadership has removed funding and failed to make improvements for so long that it is now to the point where our roads and bridges are deteriorating. They’ve completely forgotten about the safety of upstate New York residents.”

“The closure of this bridge has affected many lives,” said Assemblywoman Sayward.  “People are struggling to get back and forth from work, creating long, stressful days.  Farmers need to tend to their animals; people require medical services.  Residents have been inconvenienced long enough, with inclement weather coming upon us we must act now.  We are looking to the Governor to find funds so we can resolve this sooner than later.  The citizens of Edinburg and surrounding areas are finding themselves in a similar situation. The Batchellerville Bridge is flagged to one lane making it nearly impossible to respond quickly to emergency situations.”

“The New York City-led Senate Democrats have raised our taxes and shifted more of those hard-earned dollars to the City,” said Senator Libous.  “And, in a move that is unprecedented they have approved a stand-alone bill to help the MTA and left the entire Upstate region behind.  By going back on their word to address Upstate’s transportation needs, Senate Democrats have shown quite clearly that they don’t care about the safety of our roads and bridges, like the Crown Point Bridge, the Route 201/434 bridge near Binghamton University,  or any other bridge in Upstate.”

"Leaving the state without a comprehensive transportation infrastructure plan puts communities throughout the state at risk of facing their own Crown Point Bridge problem. Road and bridge improvement projects are needed to ensure safety. They also promote economic development and create much needed jobs. Governor Paterson, who has already rejected outright the DOT's proposed 5 year capital plan, needs to work with the DOT to come up with a plan that addresses the needs of all regions of the state," said Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick).

The Democrat-led Assembly and Senate approved a capital plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) this past May while refusing to address the deteriorating condition of New York’s roads and bridges. Capital plans for mass transit and roads and bridges have historically been approved at the same time.

A DOT report issued this past May listed hundreds of bridges in need of attention.  The Crown Point Bridge, also known as the Lake Champlain Bridge, had a safety rating of 3.38.  More than 100 bridges received a lower score in that report.

The Batchellerville Bridge, built in 1930 and last inspected by DOT in August 2008, has a safety rating of 3.35 out of 7.00.  The 3,000-foot span has been reduced to one-way traffic.

“In the future should the Batchellerville bridge not be repaired or replaced and ends up getting shut down as did Crown Point, you have cut off the residents of the entire south shore and all roads off from South Shore, from all municipal facilities, including schools, landfill, town offices and road maintenance, all of which we pay taxes to support,” said Paula Blackwell, a member of The Bridge of Life Committee.

“One major effect right now on the fire department is the weight restriction.  We cannot cross the bridge with our tanker loaded, nor can we get water from the closest fire company, because their tankers are too heavy.  Should the bridge close our problems become multiplied because first response will be from neighboring companies 20 to 30 minutes away.  In the case of a structure fire, stroke, heart attack, entrapment or other emergency, every minute counts.”

“Without the Lake Champlain/Crown Point Bridge and normal traffic patterns, local businesses found an immediate decrease in business,” said Barbara Brassard, executive director of the Ticonderoga Area Chamber of Commerce.  “Their losses range from 30 to 90 percent.  This is a huge impact to our struggling businesses that may not survive.

“This is the short term impact.  The long term impact would surface next summer when the tourists normally arrive.  Without the bridge to channel visitors here we could be facing an even more devastating impact and more businesses closing. Jobs will be lost and storefronts will close.  This is a hit that our region cannot afford and could be the death of our area as we knew it.”

Last month, the New York State Department of Transportation announced its proposed five-year 2010-2015 capital transportation program, which was almost immediately rejected by Governor David Paterson.  The lawmakers said despite the state’s fiscal crisis, priorities such as addressing deteriorating infrastructure need to be addressed for public safety.