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November 20, 2012 - 8:28pm

Statements from officials on the status of the Bethany Center Road bridge

posted by Howard B. Owens in Bethany, infrastructure, Bethany Center Road.

After posting our pictures this morning of the Bethany Center Road bridge, we contacted some of the officials who might be able to provide information about potentially replacing the decaying structure. Here are the responses we received.

From Lori Maher, spokeswoman for the Department of Transportation:

The Bethany Center Road bridge over Route 20 in Bethany is open and safe for traffic despite its poor visual appearance. It is a candidate for future funding and will be competing for funds against other transportation needs in the seven-county area.

In a follow-up, Maher said no date for replacement has been scheduled.

Assemblyman Steve Hawley:

There are currently 2108 structurally deficient bridges in New York State, 214 in the Rochester Finger Lakes Region, with 123 bridges located in the 139th Assembly District. The Bethany Center Road bridge is slated for repair in 2015 once funding is approved. We are working diligently and directly with NYSDOT and our federal representatives to procure our equitable and fair share of funds to assure our motoring public and commerce are safe.

Daniel Aikin for Senator Michael Ranzenhofer:

Our district office has not been previously contacted about this specific bridge project, the decay and repair of the Bethany Center Road Bridge. Even though the bridge is located on a county road, the State Department of Transportation may have jurisdiction over the bridge since it crosses a state road, Route 20. Senator Ranzenhofer represented residents at the county level for many years, and he always makes an effort to assist with local infrastructure projects. As a state senator, he has been active in working with DOT officials -- both locally and in Albany -- on specific road and bridge projects. Our office has reached out to the State Department of Transportation for more information regarding this project.

From Grant Loomis, spokesman for Congressman-elect Chis Collins:

Upon taking office in January, Congressman-elect Collins will work hand-in-hand with local leaders to advocate for the necessary amount of federal matching funds to assist local communities in repairing and replacing aging infrastructure to ensure safety for the traveling public.

Doug Yeomans
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Bridges and superhighways seemed to spring up like weeds post WWII. How were they paid for at that time and why are they so difficult to maintain and/or replace now?

Howard B. Owens
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Doug: One word: Inflation. Blame the fed.

Doug Yeomans
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Well, in this modern age of engineering marvels, It seems as though bridges could be modular in construction. The part that wears out could be replaced instead of the entire structure.

I remember hearing on the Bob Brinker show that American companies have something like $22 or $24 trillion in offshore accounts. It's too bad that they can't bring that money here to rebuild our infrastructure, create jobs and to just about bail this country out.

Mark Potwora
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Why does the county feel like they need to spend $375,000 this year to do a comprehensive review..When many of these bridges are allready being looked into for repair..DOT said the bridge is safe,i'm sure Mr.Hens knew that also..He made the statement to the county legislators that some some bridges -- such as the Bethany Center Road Bridge over Route 20 -- that are in dire need of replacement are being left to decay.When in reality the state was aware of the bridge and were planning on repairing it...Is this all about getting the legislators behind a 375,000 dollars study...I don't think he was being totally upfront on the status of the bridge..Good scare tacit Mr.Hens..He got the Batavian to also add to the paranoia of the RT 20 bridge collapsing,by taking pictures of it...So the bridge is not being left to decay..The state does have plans to repair it according to Mr.Hawley..

Howard B. Owens
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Mr. Hens wasn't the one in the room who first mentioned the Bethany Center Bridge. I believe it was Mary Pat Hancock. Tim was strictly speaking about the resolution in front of the legislature when the conversation veered off into other projects.

I'm no engineer, but I don't think I'm adding to the paranoia. I have long been concerned that that bridge is particularly troublesome. It's telling that the state at one time considered it dire enough to replace in 2011, but now it's not even really being considered. I understand there are higher priority bridges, but I really don't care about some bridge in some other county. This is our bridge in our county and the DOT shouldn't be let off the hook for any reason for not making it a priority. 2013 would not be soon enough for replacing it. A bridge in that much disrepair should not exist in a society concerned about the safety and well being of its citizens. We have billions to spend on wars we shouldn't wage, but nothing for the infrastructure that keeps the home front safe and prosperous. How does that make sense?

Raymond Richardson
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Howard, let us not forget the millions spent bailing out private industry during the recession, and extending unemployment benefits beyond the norm.

What Congress should have done was implement some of Roosevelt's policies that worked and got Americans working again.

Let's also not forget the "stimulus" money given to households with school age children, to buy "school supplies".

Some of that payment to NYS could have been used for infrastructure issues, such as the Bethany bridge.

Mark Potwora
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Howard according to your news story Mr.Hens said that the Bethany Center Road Bridge over Route 20 -- that are in dire need of replacement are being left to decay.When Mr Hawley said that it is to be done in 2015.So its not being left to decay.The state DOT said it was safe.Why didn't he just say that..Instead of leaving in up in the air like that...You did get answers to the question that Mr.Hens should of gave to the legislators on that bridge.Maybe next time the county legislators should seek answers to questions such as this from other agency's and not depend on Mr.Hens for the answers ..
To have to spend 375,000 dollars on a study to tell us all what should allready be known seems like a waste of money .That instead could be used to fix a bridge and not count how many bridges we have...You got the answers to the question of what is being done about the bridge. Mr.Hens i believe left that out so as to drum up support for spending 375,000 dollars on a study that he as the Highway Supt. should allready know..

Timothy Hens
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Just because the Bethany Center Bridge over Rt 20 is safe doesn't mean it doesn't need to be replaced. If it were unsafe, it would be posted for load, or closed all together. It is generally good engineering to replace structures before they fail completely. I did not bring the bridge up at committee, but rather commented on its status on the State Transportation Improvement Plan. My comments were not a scare tactic, rather an assessment on the impact that reallocated federal funding will have on the Rochester region.

The goal of the $375,000 project is assess, analyze and prioritize the replacement schedule and needs of county-owned structures. There are 246 bridge-culverts ranging from 5 foot to 20 foot in span. This number constitutes everything from a 5 foot diameter culvert pipe to the 19'-9" concrete arch bridge in Linden. Genesee County has ownership and maintenance of every bridge in this span classification, regardless if it is located on a Town-owned road, a village street or in the City of Batavia. This is a unique legal status that only applies to Genesee, Wyoming and Sullivan Counties as mandated by NYS Highway Law. Typically these structures are left to the municipality of lower jurisdiction to replace. These structures are not eligible for any type of federal funding and are the sole responsibility for the county to replace.

An additional goal of the $375,000 project is to develop "cookie-cutter" design solutions for some of the larger span bridges within this category. The intent is that when structural items such as precast concrete or steel girders are required, they may easily be bid out and put in place by in-house highway crews or by private contract. There are many bridges that are very similar. Having "on-the-shelf" designs is an efficient way to aid bridge replacements.

Based on the need determined by the study, the County may need to address future capital infrastructure spending through a bond or other long-term funding plan.

Currently, the County relies heavily on the state-provided CHIPS funding for bridge repairs and replacements, but the County only receives $1.4 million which is predominantly spend on highway maintenance and repaving. The County attempts to replace at least 5 of its smaller span bridges each year, but with increasing material costs and the age of many of these bridges reaching their design life span, the costs to keep up exceeds what the County can cover on its own.

To make matters worse, the County is also responsible for an additional 95 bridges that exceed 20 feet in span. At least half of these bridges will need to be replaced or undergo major rehabilitation within the next decade. These bridges are eligible for federal aid, but with federal money coming into the Rochester region drying up and the State prioritizing funding to their own system, the County is left high and dry. Some of these larger span bridges can be replaced easily in-house without federal aid, but larger ones like the South Lyons St bridge or the Stroh Rd bridge in Alexander will cost millions to replace, and for the foreseeable future there will be no federal assistance.

Spending $375,000 to get a plan in place to deal with this oncoming infrastructure dilemma makes good sense to me. It would be great to spend the $375,000 on actual bridge repairs, but that would be like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. A closer look at our smaller bridges will help us figure out the most cost effective way to repair or replace these structures. After that we can look at funding options.

Howard B. Owens
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Good comment, Tim. Thank you for the clarification and expansion on the information.

As for this statement, "It is generally good engineering to replace structures before they fail completely."

My first response was, "Yeah, like, of course."

Thanks.

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