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Village sees bridge demo, blocked off street as best option for now

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

State, Fed dollars would pay for nearly entire project

Photos by Tom Rivers – Tearing out the Clarendon Street bridge will require the removal of embankments that reach 11 feet high. Here is the view looking north past Crimson Drive.

ALBION – If the Clarendon Street bridge is taken out and blocked off, village residents and motorists can expect minimal disruption in traffic patterns and wait times, said the engineer who has been working on the project.

Kevin Miller, an engineer with Bergmann Associates, said the current wait time at Clarendon Street for turning onto Route 31 is 11 seconds during peak traffic from 7:15 to 8:15 a.m. and 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

If the bridge is demolished and blocked off, most of the traffic would shift to McKinistry Street and the wait times would rise to 16 seconds, Miller said. That is well below the threshold of what the state Department of Transportation considers an unacceptable wait time: 50 seconds or longer.

The north side of the Clarendon Street bridge gently reaches its peak, but that side will also require leveling and a better turning radius for Childs Street.

The village has reached out to the community for their input about the impacts of shutting down the street by the railroad tracks. Central Orleans Volunteer Ambulance sees the blocked off section causing some “confusion and delays” for motorists.

Jason Spencer, COVA director of operations, said the east end of the village already poses problems for COVA. The Brown Street bridge is closed and ambulances can’t use part of Butts Road because of a railroad bridge that has a clearance of about 7 feet.

“I’m just concerned with the delay in going to Rochester,” Spencer said after Wednesday’s Village Board meeting.

Albion police say “there would be no drastic impact on emergency services” and the school district told the village there will be “a slightly longer route for a few buses,” Miller said.

Kevin Miller, an engineer with Bergmann Associates, discusses the Clarendon Street bridge with resident Gloria Davis and concerned community members, including Jason Spencer (right), director of operations for COVA.

During a public meeting on Wednesday, some neighbors wondered how the bridge demolition would affect the neighborhood. Miller said the 40-year-old bridge rests on embankments that peak at 11 feet high. The bridge and embankments will all be removed.

Contractors will make sure Clarendon Street is leveled and allows for the proper turning radius for Crimson Drive and Childs Street. Miller said the blocked off areas should have nice landscaping with grass and possibly trees.

The village, DOT and Genesee Transportation Council wanted to remove the bridge and replace it with a new one. But the costs for the project jumped from about $2.1 million to $2.55 million. The village’s share of the project was due to rise from $106,000 to about $700,000.

Village Board members say the village doesn’t have the money for the increase. It would have to finance it at a cost of $70,000 to $100,000 a year. Village Trustee Eileen Banker said the 2 percent tax cap makes it difficult for that much of an increase. Albion would have to scale back on services or staff to accommodate the payment, Banker said.

If the village chooses to remove the bridge and close off that section of the street, the project would be about $1,338,000. State and federal aid would cover 95 percent of the project, leaving the village with about $70,000 of the total cost or 5 percent.

When the cost jumped for the bridge replacement, the state and federal governments said they wouldn’t boost their share, leaving the village to pay all of the added costs. But a bridge removal is about half the costs of replacing the bridge, and the village can maximize the 95 percent aid share from the state and federal government.

The project has been debated in Village Hall for about 15 years. The village runs the risk of losing all of the state and federal money if the Village Board doesn’t pick a plan soon. The GTC board in Rochester meets June 19 and would like Albion to settle on a project.

Residents have also suggested an at-grade crossing, but that could be years to get approved and Albion might have to take out one or two others in the village to make up for adding one, Miller said.

Miller shows a slide of the existing railroad crossings in the village. If Clarendon Street were made an at-grade crossing, Miller said at least one other crossing, and likely two, would have to be taken out from the village.

The board said by taking out the bridge and blocking off  a portion of the street, it still leaves open the option of pursuing at at-grade crossing in the future.

“We either take the $1.4 million (from the state and federal government) and do something with it or we have nothing,” Banker said.

She worries if the village stalls on the project the money could be pulled and directed to another project in the Rochester region, leaving the village to pay the full costs for whatever happens to Clarendon Street bridge.

“We’re like a cat,” she said. “We’re at our ninth life. We’re done.”

The bridge is inspected annually by the state DOT and has many structural deficiencies. Miller said the bridge is “beyond repair.” He said it’s impossible to predict how much longer the bridge will last before it would get shut down for safety reasons by the state.

“It could happen tomorrow, but I don’t think that’s likely,” he said. “But in the next five years there would be a high chance of it.”

The village would like to see the removal go forward. Miller said the project is in the final design stage. He said it could go out to bid in the fall or winter with the construction work next year.