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No additional state or fed dollars for Albion bridge

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 May 2014 at 12:00 am

Village officials say bridge demo, blocked-off street likely outcome for Clarendon Street

Photo by Tom Rivers – Rich Perrin (right), executive director of the Genesee Transportation Council, meets with Albion and state Department of Transportation officials this afternoon at Village Hall to discuss the Clarendon Street bridge. Perrin confirmed there wouldn’t be additional state or federal dollars to help with escalating costs of the project.

ALBION – The village of Albion won’t be getting an increase in state or federal dollars to help with the escalating costs of the Clarendon Street bridge replacement, village officials were told this afternoon by Rich Perrin, executive director of the Genesee Transportation Council.

The dollars simply aren’t there, and if there was more money it would go to projects in the region with higher traffic volumes than the Clarendon bridge, which sees 1,600 vehicles a day, Perrin said.

The village was told last week that costs were up nearly $600,000 from what was budgeted for the project, and that increase would have to be paid for with local dollars. The $2 million project was supposed to be an 80 percent share federally, 15 percent share by the state and 5 percent by the village.

But now the village cost could be as high as $775,000 rather than $200,000 in what the village saw as a worst-case scenario.

The local burden has prompted Mayor Dean London and the majority of the board to look at canceling the bridge replacement and demolishing the bridge. The section of the street by the railroad tracks would be blocked off in that scenario.

That would be far cheaper than building a new bridge. State and federal dollars would more than cover those reduced costs, Perrin and DOT officials said this afternoon.

One village trustee, Stan Farone, doesn’t want to see a torn down bridge and closed off street.

“We’re trying to build up our village,” he said at an afternoon meeting today with Perrin and DOT officials. “We’re trying to make our village look presentable.”

Farone said Clarendon Street is an important artery in the village, especially for morning and afternoon school traffic. The street also runs along Bullard Park, which the village wants to see upgraded with new playground equipment. He worries about a blocked off street that would be turn unsightly at the endpoints by the railroad tracks.

“We want to bring people to the village not make it a dump,” Farone said.

The village is working with Bergmann Associates to have a rendering of how the blocked off section could look. The village would like to have that ready by a 7 p.m. meeting June 11 at Village Hall.

The community, including the school district, should weigh in on the impacts of blocking off the street. Perrin said it will create a 2/3 mile detour to McKinistry Street. With 1,600 vehicles each day that is about 1,000 extra miles daily for Albion drivers due to the detour, he said.

The village has been working on the Clarendon Street bridge replacement since 1999. That’s when the project was first on the GTC radar. Money was appropriated for the project but it didn’t get done within the 10-year window established for the projects.

The village reapplied and was awarded the funding again in 2010. But construction, which was set for this fall, now is in limbo. Village officials either need to forge ahead with construction or a demolition, said Rick Papaj, local projects unit supervisor for the DOT.

There can’t be more delays or else Albion could lose the $1.3 million set aside in state and federal money for the project, he said. The DOT and GTC want the village to pick a plan by August.

Perrin said he sympathizes with the village. Sometimes the budgeted amount is approved and then the costs jump for projects that are years in the making. The state and federal government haven’t allocated additional funding to help with those increases, he said.

He expects to see more closed off or demolished bridges due to dwindling funds.

“We’re dealing with a managed decline,” he said about the region’s infrastructure. “Bridges are being posted or closed on a regular basis. Eventually you can’t Band Aid major wounds.”

The DOT faulted the village for a series of delays with the project. The village in 1999 said it intended to have a new bridge built, but then looked at taking the bridge out and establishing an at-grade crossing at the railroad tracks.

The village abandoned that when it was told it would have to remove two other at-grade crossings in the village. It also previously looked at removing the bridge and blocking off the street.

Papaj, however, said the village was in an unusual spot. Most bridges the size of Clarendon Street are owned by counties, which are accustomed to the process of working with the DOT and GTC to move the projects along. Counties also have more cash flow to handle the financial demands of the projects.

Bigger municipalities also have a full-time manager or engineer that can keep the projects moving forward, Papaj said.

Village trustees Eileen Banker and Gary Katsanis said the village needs to move on the demolition, or risk losing the federal and state dollars. They both said the local share – at nearly $1 million – is too much for the village.

“It’s do or die,” Banker said.