Dryden resident David Weinstein urged the Town of Dryden Board of Trustees to reconsider its plan to replace the one-lane bridge on Freese Road over Fall Creek with a two-lane bridge at a meeting on June 20.
Weinstein, who is also a member of the Town Planning Board, spoke in front of the Town board about the misconceptions regarding the $3.64 million in funding from the 2016 Bridge NY program, which was granted to the board by the New York State Department of Transportation back in 2017. The board announced in 2017 that the funding would be put toward projects to repair and/or replace the bridge on Freese Road as well as the bridge on South George Road.
“I keep hearing that the New York Bridge funding is saving the taxpayers a lot of money,” Weinstein said. “This idea is wrong, because Bridge New York is a grant. It is capped at 95 percent of the estimated costs, whereas the regular transportation improvement program has a track record over the last five years of paying 80 percent of the actual costs.”
He then applied this to the project for the bridge on South George Road. He said while the town is receiving $963,000 in federal funding, the total cost was underestimated by 36 percent by Barton & Loguidice, DPC, the engineering consultant for both bridge projects, and will be higher, at about $1.4 million.
“The difference between those ($437,000) having to be paid by local taxpayers,” he said. “If the project had been done through the tip, only $280,000 would have to be paid by the local taxpayers, so it would’ve saved local taxpayers $150,000. If Barton & Loguidice made a similar 36 percent underestimate for the Freese Road Bridge, we taxpayers would be on the hook for $700,000 with your chosen alternative.”
“So let’s stop hearing that the Bridge New York funding is saving us a lot of money,” Weinstein continued. “It seemed like a good idea at the time, I’ll give you that. But it no longer is a good idea. These fund deficits are yet another [reason] in a long list of reasons that rehabilitating the current Freese Road bridge, which would be much cheaper, is a much better option than your chosen alternative.”
The Town Board has also received criticism from state government agencies regarding its decision to replace the bridge on Freese Road rather than repair it. According to a June 14 article from the Cortland Standard, the NYSDOT, the Federal Highway Administration and the State Historic Preservation Office “rejected the plan, telling the board it must build a new bridge nearby, but keep the existing bridge intact to preserve its historic character.”
At a meeting on June 13, the Town Board voted to four to zero, with board member Linda Lavine abstaining, in favor sending documents to the respective agencies outlining why they chose to replace the bridge. The board chose to replace the bridge because it would cost $5,000 per year to fix it and that there could be an increase in the risk of flooding with the current state of the bridge.