David Weinstein (above) shared his displeasure with the Town of Dryden Board of Trustees’ decision to replace the one-lane bridge on Freese Road at a meeting on June 20.

David Weinstein (above) shared his displeasure with the Town of Dryden Board of Trustees’ decision to replace the one-lane bridge on Freese Road at a meeting on June 20. 

 

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.

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(5) comments

David Weinstein

Dear Peter, I doubt that I can change your mind, but I am curious why you are so convinced that the bridge needs to be replaced. The official NY annual bridge traffic counts have not had an increase over the past 20 years, despite the increases in Varna and Ellis Hollow population over this period of more than 25%. I have lived right next to the bridge for 33 years and I have never seen a wait at either end of the bridge of more than 20 seconds. The first-responder emergency vehicles, including the first-responder fire trucks, can all pass over the bridge now (the fire truck did so less than 6 month ago). The bridge can be repaired with at least a 35-year life span for far less money than the replacement bridge will cost, especially if it continues to have a load limit of 15 tons per axel, and it is obvious that with the tight turn at the foot of the hill to the north, allowing truck larger than this to use Freese Road adds an additional danger to cars coming in the other direction, since trucks this large have to take up both lanes to make the turn. A two-lane bridge will lead to cars going faster (according to the town's own study), which will further increase the danger. It sounds like you will be more than willing to pay my part of the tax increase to fund the expensive new bridge, so, if it comes to that, I'll appreciate seeing your check in my mail. Thanks for expressing your opinion.

Peter Salton

This bridge needs to be replaced and it's about time! As Varna grows and gets absorbed into the outskirts of Ithaca itself -- yes, that is going to happen -- vital infrastructure upgrades are needed. Emergency and other vehicles need to be able to get across Fall Creek through Varna. Forest Home has nixed bridge expansion throughout history and is more built out and less amenable to larger crossing points. The location and future transportation needs make it necessary to put a two lane bridge here.

David Weinstein

If anything, the replacement bridge could increase the flooding potential by narrowing the flood channel by almost 20%, filling in a portion of the protected wetland beneath the bridge.

David Weinstein

Finally, a reporter who includes the whole story and gets most of the numbers right. One mistake, however, is in the last sentence, “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.” The board convinced itself that it would take $5000 a year to MAINTAIN the bridge AFTER fixing it. “Fixing it” would cost about $2 million if it was made to handle trucks of any weight. Keeping it at a weight limit of 15 tons (all it really needs) would undoubtedly cost considerably less, but the board chose not to even find out what that cost might be.

Eddie Coyle

5000 a year to fix the one lane bridge on a little used country road, or up to 700,000 on local taxpayers to replace it with an unneeded two lane bridge. Why are we even discussing this?