A full slate of government officials spent last Wednesday night appealing to a room full of about 40 local residents at the Varna Community Association, trying to sway them to accept the future of the Freese Road Bridge.
No final decision has been made on the fate of the bridge, although it seems clear that fixes are needed and, by hook or by crook, must be made, as the Town of Dryden has been told by New York State.
Local officials, on the other hand, were most focused on doing something, anything, with the bridges and utilizing the grant money they’d been given for rehabilitation.
But people in attendance maintained a range of reactions, from skeptical to opposition. There appeared to be two contingents: those who object to twinning the bridges, or any expansion at all, due to the impact on their neighboring properties, and those who want to see the bridge retained due to its convenience, inherent traffic-slowing qualities and historical significance.
Overarching accusations of bureaucratic overstep were also common at the meeting, with residents asserting that New York State was holding the Freese Road Bridge to a more stringent standard than is necessary (estimating that 2,000 cars per day travel on the bridge, which was challenged as a very high estimate by locals), and essentially fixing a problem that doesn’t actually exist.
Overall, five alternatives were presented to the residents, the result of a process by the hired engineers. Those remaining alternatives have been boiled down to: a single lane choice that would include a traffic signal; a completely new truss with the old truss moved elsewhere and preserved; a new truss built in the current location, with the old truss moved adjacent to the new bridge and used as a pedestrian bridge; or a new truss built adjacent to the current truss, which would remain in its original position and used as a pedestrian bridge. The public’s reaction? Underwhelmed.
The first two alternatives (which have been eliminated), seemingly the most publicly popular, appear to be unviable. Widening of the bridge to state standards (after rehabilitation) and rehabilitation without widening were ruled out because the New York State Historical Preservation Office decided that those solutions would have an “adverse effect” on the historical value of the bridge.
Traffic control is also sure to factor into the future debate over the issue. Residents seem to prefer the single lane road, since it inherently forces people to slow down to accommodate anyone coming the other direction. For Dryden officials, this represented a risk, but the residents appeared convinced that any dangers of a head-on collision are outweighed by the safe approach that is forced.