Thursday, September 14, 2006

At last

Cue the Ella Fitzgerald, ‘cause the state Department of Transportation and Saratoga County have finally figured out who owns the sagging Batchellerville Bridge, bringing to an end a saga of abhorrent bureaucratic wrangling that has spanned nearly two decades.

And with the tough part behind them, these bureaucrats are going to power forward with the project to replace 76-year-old structure at a pace that any governmental agency could respect—they anticipate starting construction in three years.

Meanwhile, the more-than-3,000-foot long bridge –the only passage across the Great Sacandaga Lake –has required an increasing infusion of funding to keep it from falling into the flood-controlled reservoir. Most recently, the state pumped $125,000 worth of repairs into the bridge in 2003 as a stop gap measure; at the time, state transportation officials had downgraded the bridge, meaning that only one direction of traffic could cross it at a time, a situation that stymied traffic all around the lake during the summer tourism season.

Why? Because none of the lawmakers involved could figure out who owned the bridge. Saratoga County said it was the state’s, the state said a county road crossed the bridge, so therefore it belonged to the county and the local municipalities on either side said it didn’t really matter because they were too poor to foot the $36 million cost of replacement.

For the future, here’s a simple test to determine ownership of any given bridge: first, who built the bridge and second, whose land does it rest on? Answer these questions and you’ve got your bridge owner, which in this case, would be the state. New York created the reservoir, New York built the bridge, New York owns both the land beneath the bridge and the banks on either side of it, so hence, New York is the rightful proprietor of the bridge, regardless of what road crosses over it.

One would think someone at the state level would have the competency to make these simple assumptions, but no. Instead, these morons protracted the issue and allowed the cost of building a bridge to skyrocket through the roof.

Mind you, the local press is reporting the price tag on the bridge replacement from 2001. As anyone who knows the cost of steel, concrete and asphalt will tell you, that cost ain’t going to be the same as it was five years ago.

So who takes it in the end? The tax payers, who will only see a little blip of the bridge cost in the gargantuan state and federal transportation budgets. But add these blips up over time and you get the reason why these budgets seem to soar every year.

And to think, all of this could have been avoided years ago, were it not for a pack of recalcitrant legislators more interested in arguing than getting things done.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a disturbing story. I would love to know the names of those involved in dragging this decision out for so long. And I can't help but believe that costly blunders like this are being repeated on a daily basis. Why can't these decision be made based on the truth and common sense instead of politics? What kind of narrow mindset is tolerated in our state management that would justify this behavior? Why isn't the commom good used as a baseline to establish a better decision making process and timeline for such decisions. Who did they think they were helping/protecting?

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this still has to go through the Black River-Hudson River Regulating District...good luck.

5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If all of us who have a stake in seeing a long-term solution to this stick together and keep the pressure on, I think it will happen. We deserve a beautiful new bridge that meets the needs of all current and future users of the lake and surrounding area. Yes, it's about time. But, the nasty infighting of various interests discouraged any elected official from touching this. They are doing so now. So, they deserve our support.

Mike Eisenberg

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The infighting and bad-mouthing of the various factions and interest groups (and individuals) discouraged anyone from doing anything about this.

It's time to pull together and get behind building a bridge that we can all be proud of and benefit from.

Sure, it's long overdue. So, let's applaud those who are finally doing it!

Mike Eisenberg

7:35 PM  

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