By STEVEN COOK
REXFORD — The revised proposal for the possible new Rexford Bridge is much improved from the original plan, Clifton Park resident Kevin Park said Thursday evening.
That’s because the revised proposal includes a full four lanes — two each way — on the proposed new bridge.
“At least if they put a four-lane bridge in and they screw something else up, it can be fixed after that,” Park said. “But once the bridge is in, the bridge is in for 50 years.”
The state Department of Transportation held an open house Thursday night on the latest bridge proposal at the Rexford Fire Station.
The department is working to get a plan in place for a new bridge with changes to the road north and south of it. The goal is to finally address the legendary bottlenecks commuters have regularly seen there for years as they travel to and from work each day.
Residents from both sides of the Mohawk River got to look at the new maps and simulations Thursday night, as well as ask questions and give new comments.
The open house came after two meetings in January on the original plan, one that called for a three-lane bridge. But comments from those meetings led designers to widen the proposed bridge and make other minor changes.
The proposal now is to have the stretch of Balltown Road be four lanes from just south of Aqueduct Road in Niskayuna to just north of Riverview Road in Rexford. There is also to be a roundabout at Aqueduct Road.
Main Street in Rexford will continue to have two access points to the road. The original plan cut that to one, which was a concern of the fire department, as well as residents of that area.
Aaron Cote, a Rexford resident and firefighter, said he sees the four-lane proposal as eliminating any confusion that a three-lane bridge would have caused.
He said he travels that stretch every day.
“Two lanes each way will keep it flowing,” Cote said.
In addition to the travel lanes, the bridge proposal also continues to have a protected lane for bikes and pedestrians.
The state Department of Transportation is readying the proposal for possible future funding. The idea, officials said, is to have the approvals in-hand for when money becomes available.
The new four-lane proposal is estimated to cost $24.1 million, up from the three-lane proposal’s $22.8 million cost.
DOT project manager Richard Filkins said he hopes to have final design approval by the end of July or early August.
“When it has design approval, it makes it more attractive because they know it can move forward,” Filkins said.
The three-lane bridge proposal is being kept as an alternative during the comment period, officials said. Residents, however, were skeptical of that plan at the January meetings.
Once comments on the new plan are received, one alternative will be chosen.
The Rexford Bridge opened in 1965 and now carries more than 22,000 vehicles each day. The department has wanted to replace it for more than a decade, as it nears the end of its designed 50-year lifespan.
Without funding in place, there is no formal schedule, Filkins said. However, he said he expects it to be within five years, because the current bridge’s condition will become more of an issue as time goes on.
Total construction time is expected to be two years from start to opening of the new bridge, then another year to take down the old bridge.
Also attending the open house was Charles Steiner, president of the Chamber of Schenectady County. He said the bridge is an important access point for Niskayuna and corridor for businesses.
Seeing the historic bottlenecks cleared up, he said, will be beneficial for everyone.
“Time is money,” Steiner said.
As for the DOT asking for and actually responding to public comments, Park welcomed it.
“There’s nothing like the people who’ve been driving it for 20 years,” he said. “They’ve watched all the different things that have happened.”
Also, he said, they’ve had plenty of time sitting in traffic to think about it.