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Village responds to County 14 bridge’s continued closure

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RENSSELAER FALLS – Mayor Jeffrey W. Dollinger is encouraging residents to express their concerns with the St. Lawrence County Highway Department over the County Route 14 bridge’s continued closure.

The project, which began more than six months ago, involved demolishing the old truss-style bridge that had corroded over time and replacing it with a one-pier steel structure with a concrete deck.

Last week, the county announced the bridge’s opening will be delayed for another two months following a sewer pipe malfunction. Crews need additional time to reinforce the sewer pipe underneath the bridge with steel, county Highway Superintendent Toby M. Bogart said.

“Then we will have to wait for the pressure test of the pipe,” said Mr. Bogart. “Once that is completed they can put the guiderail up, but until then, it is still a traffic safety hazard.”

Meanwhile, residents who expected the bridge to be open Nov. 30 have grown anxious over the project’s extension. Some expressed their frustrations during Monday’s village board meeting.

“Why couldn’t they do like they do everywhere else?” said resident Harold L. Phillips. “Whoever lives over there can go across. It’s not like there is going to be a car going over there every three seconds. They don’t realize what it costs us to drive around that detour, every day. People don’t realize it.”

“I think people realize, I think it’s a questions whether they care or not,” said Mr. Dollinger in response. “I think we’re just small enough that they think they don’t have to deal with it.”

Board member Steven Hammond said he was most concerned about the effect the delay would have on the response time of some emergency services during the winter months. In the case of an emergency, Heuvelton’s emergency services are dispatched to the west side of town.

“But now you’re waiting much longer for a response,” said Mr. Dollinger. “Instead of half a mile, you’re talking an extra eight or nine miles away. They don’t work on it at night. You can’t at least open it at night and close it during the day?”

But Mr. Bogart said that the equipment and the materials sit in the center of the bridge, and the contractor, Tioga Construction, Herkimer, has complete control over the project.

“The reason we have it closed is so that we can allow the contractor free access to get the job done faster,” said Mr. Bogart. “If we had to tear down and set up the equipment each day, it would extend the project to double the amount of the time it would take to complete the project. We are going to continue to work with the contractor to get it open as soon as possible.”

Unsatisfied with the county’s response, Mr. Dollinger encouraged residents to contact the county Highway Department, and ask them to seek other alternatives.

“We have to speak out in numbers,” said Mr. Dollinger. “I am just one man. Get that phone ringing or show up at the office.”

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