One child on a skateboard and another on a bicycle got a chance to do something they probably have never done in their lives before - they rode across the Central Avenue bridge. The bridge was officially opened just minutes before after city officials held a celebratory ribbon cutting to mark the occasion.
“I am very happy that the bridge has finally been built, especially before school starts,” said Orchard Street resident Tim Kirby before the city’s ribbon cutting ceremony Friday. But while Kirby was happy about the opening, he was not thrilled that it has taken the local government more than six years to complete the project.
“The traffic on Orchard Ave has been very heavy and dangerous the last six-and-a-half years. While I understand there have been many issues involved to bring this project to completion, it should never have taken this long. I would have preferred that they opened the bridge unceremoniously. No one should be congratulating themselves over this.
Officials acknowledged the project took too long but were happy to celebrate its final completion.
“This is what local government does. We get stuff done,” said Mayor Douglas French. “This project put this to the test and there were times when I thought the Tappan Zee Bridge would be funded and completed before our beloved Central Avenue Bridge,” he joked. “
The bridge was classified as deficient in a 2005 New York State biennial inspection report.
The city began design of the replacement in Nov. 2006. Then in April 2007 the west abutment of the bridge was severely damaged by floodwaters and the bridge had to be closed. FEMA was supposed to fund a new bridge but further investigation revealed that Central Avenue is a state road and was ineligible for direct FEMA funding so it was reassigned to the New York State DOT Emergency Relief Program in March, 2009.
From there the city had to work with state requirements to plan and bid the project.
“It took a long time to comply with all state requirements,” Pickup said.
French noted that the past several years have been a challenging time for state and local government with several serious storms and the economic recession.
“It takes team work and collaboration to get this done. It has been a long road,” he said.
French thanked the city council, City Engineer Ryan Coyne, City Manager Scott Pickup, State Senator George Latimer and other state officials as well as neighbors for their patience and support. He also thanked the New York Department of Transportation, which funded 80 percent of the project, which cost about $2.1 million, according to Pickup. The city issued bonds to pay for their 20 percent share, he said.
State Senator George Latimer said his role in the reopening was “frankly to yell with certain officials in the state to get them to prioritize this.”
“I see this not as a success, but as a failure of government. It could have been faster and smoother.” He pointed to the Ridge Street Bridge as an example of a more efficient project run by the state.
“We need to learn from this experience so that it does not go through the regulatory rigmarole this one did.”