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February 21, 2018 - 3:58pm

Town highway superintendents asked to help the county secure more state grants for bridge replacements

posted by Howard B. Owens in infrastructure, bridges, news, notify.

Genesee County is responsible for more than 380 bridges and culverts. But for each grant-writing periord, it is only allowed by the state to apply for funding from Bridge NY for repairs to and replacement of four bridges and six culverts.

At a recent meeting in Albany, County Highway Superintendent Tim Hens asked a representative from the Department of Transportation if there was a workaround for that limitation.

The consultant's suggestion: Get each of the towns in the county to apply for grants for four bridges and six culverts. There is no reason, he said, the towns can't apply, but let the county administer the grants once they are received.

"That's potentially 26 bridges instead of two," Hens said. "I don’t know that we’re going to get that many, but I’m going to try to get as many applications in as I can. Even though they are theoretically awarded to the town, the county would still administer it and hire the consultant and manage the construction. Bridge NY projects are funded 100 percent so there’s no cost to us or the towns."

In the last round of Bridge NY grants, the county applied to fund four bridge replacements and on funds for only two -- one on Searls Road and another on Pratt Road.

Grant applications are due in April.

Hens said he has met with town superintendents in the county and they support the proposal. It will take the towns' cooperation to get the applications in on time.

Bridge NY grants are reimbursements. The bridges get built and paid for and then the state sends the money to the local jurisdiction that won the grant.

The county has about $17 million in proceeds from the sale of the Genesee County Nursing Home that legislators have promised to use on roads, bridges and other infrastructure. 

Since it is reimbursement based, we would spend the money first and we would get reimbursed for all of the funding," Hens said. "That would be another great use of our nursing home proceeds, just to manage cash flow for those projects."

Once the projects are done and the county is reimbursed, Hens said, that money could then be used for infrastructure projects that must be locally funded.

The county will be spending about $2.5 million of those proceeds this summer on three projects -- replacing the Stroh Road bridge in Alexander, replacing Colby Road in Darien, and on eight culvert replacement projects around the county.

In response to questions from members of the Public Service Committee on Tuesday, Hens said the Stroh Road bridge has been submitted four times for federal funding. Funding was granted twice, but then the bridge was knocked off the list.

Even though the bridge is critical to that part of Alexander, where there are nearby farms and a quarry, it's low traffic volume makes it a low priority for state and federal aid. The next chance to apply for federal aid is 2020 but the deterioration of the bridge has reached a critical stage, so Hens does not recommend waiting on an iffy prospect of getting a grant to cover its anticipated replacement cost of $1.5 million to $1.6 million.

Bid requests went out yesterday to contractors, Hens said.

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