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State to start project to replace I-81 bridges

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Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that construction will begin next week on a $7.4 million project to replace the Interstate 81 bridges spanning Route 232 in the town of Watertown.

Funded through the NY Works program, the project will replace the bridges and provide repairs to Route 232 and the associated interstate ramps.

The project will meet the goals of the governor’s Drivers First Initiative to reduce the impact of construction projects on motorists and will strengthen the area’s economy and transportation infrastructure, according to a released statement announcing the repairs.

The new bridges will be wider than the existing structures. They will also be higher than the current bridges to allow taller vehicles to pass underneath, preventing future bridge hits.

Construction on one bridge will be completed this year while the other bridge will be completed in 2014, according to Michael R. Flick, state Department of Transportation public information officer. The statement lists the northbound bridge as first to receive attention.

During construction, motorists will use one lane in each direction on the active bridge while the other is replaced.

The speed limit will be reduced.

Both sides will be open for winter travel, Mr. Flick said.

Work is expected to be completed by December 2014.

Lane closures have been included as a traffic control procedure in accordance with the Drivers First Initiative.

As part of the initiative, capital projects must be reviewed to ensure construction impacts on the public are minimized while safety is maintained.

The construction company for the project is Rifenburg Construction of Troy, Rensselaer County.

Mr. Flick said while it is difficult to determine how many construction jobs the project will bring to the area, there will be plenty of “second-order effects” such as local sourcing of blacktop and stone as well as gasoline, meals and lodging for the contractor’s employees.

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