About 15 Cazenovia residents attended a public forum to discuss the Clark Street bridge closure with local officials on May 31 at the town office.
Madison County Highway Superintendent Joseph Wisinski and Chairman of the Madison County Public Works Committee Dan Degear were present to answer audience members’ questions and offer what information they could regarding the future of Clark Street transit.
“It seems we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. The bridge won’t reopen this year, and won’t be opened next year either,” Wisinski said. “Typically we only allot $60,000 to $100,000 of county funds for bridge replacement projects each year. Right now, we estimate the minimum amount of money needed to reopen the Clark Street bridge is $140,000; more than we allocate for all of our bridges.”
The outlook remains bleak for those affected by the bridge closing, as no funding from federal, state or local levels will be available in the near future.
In the past, Madison County has heavily relied on monetary assistance from the U.S. Department of Transportation program, SAFETEA-LU or all of their bridge-repair projects. SAFETEA-LU stands for Safe Accountable Flexible Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users. In 2009, the program expired. While the federal government has passed numerous short-term spending bills for existing bridge replacements, the program has not yet been reauthorized.
“That was our primary funding source for the replacement and rehabilitation of bridges. Currently there is no funding level that the New York State DOT or we are aware of. At the state level, they don’t know how much money will be available, when it will be available or where it will be used,” Wisninski said. “So for the past two years, we basically have not been able to plan reconstruction projects.”
The structural deterioration of the Clark Street Bridge was first recognized in 2009, when NYSDOT yellow-flagged the overpass. Upon inspection in 2010, the bridge was red-flagged, giving Madison County six weeks to take action in repairing the bridge. At that time, the county declared the bridge to be “single lane use” only. When the NYSDOT came back this year, the bridge was red flagged again. Because of the lack of funding, the county decided to close the Clark Street conduit.
The Madison County Highway Department currently oversees 130 area bridges ranging in length and width. Taking into account traffic volume and detour length, Wisinski estimated there are 25 other area bridges in need of repair that are of a higher priority than the Clark Street Bridge.
Before its closing, the Clark Street bridge was utilized by about 380 cars a day. According to Madison County Highway Department standards, any bridge that sees less than 400 vehicles a day is considered “low volume.”
Concerned members of the audience inquired about the repercussions other roads and bridges may face because of the closing. Many were curious if the increased traffic on the Burr Street bridge would lead to the same problems and eventual closing.
Wisinski was confident the bridge is still structurally sound, and while he apologized for the traffic flow, was confident the foundation would hold. “The steel girders could probably use some sandblasting, but the fact remains that they are in excellent condition. We anticipate that bridge should easily last about another 20 years,” he said.
Burton Street resident Adam Walberg voiced his concern with the current traffic situation brought about by the bridge closing. “We have wayward trucks that forget the bridge is closed and are turning around in the elementary school’s bus circle. At some point in time, we’ll have trucks and school buses passing each other, and Burton Street is just about as narrow as you can get for a village street. These issues will all be further complicated once next winter comes.”