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View from Western Gateway Bridge partly preserved

Wall on western side of span linking Schenectady and Scotia drew complaints

Monday, September 9, 2013
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West wall of the Western Gateway Bridge on Monday.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
West wall of the Western Gateway Bridge on Monday.

— The view-obstructing concrete wall erected on the western side of the Western Gateway Bridge won’t be duplicated on the eastern side, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Instead, the side of the bridge that faces Jumpin’ Jack’s and the Stockade will feature a railing that will allow travelers glimpses of the Mohawk River.

Public complaints were widely voiced when the solid, gray wall went up on the bridge that connects Scotia and Schenectady.

DOT Spokesman Bryan Viggiani said the decision to allow the railing on the eastern side was made because there will be a multi-use trail on that side of the bridge. The railing will provide nice views for bicyclists and pedestrians, he explained.

The wall erected on the side of the bridge that faces Glen Sanders Mansion will not be replaced with a railing, he said.

The bridge renovation project began in October, and since then, the wall has been built and the two lanes that bring vehicles from Scotia to Schenectady have been replaced. The two lanes that motorists use to travel from Schenectady to Scotia are now under construction.

Scotia Mayor Kris Kastberg said he has heard from several people who are unhappy about the view-busting wall on the bridge.

“A lot of people want to know who made the decision to build the bridge that way and put that solid wall up, and the truth of that is it’s a design-build bridge, which means the contractor builds it the way he thinks it should be built.”

The aim of the design-build method is to save time and money and shorten travel inconveniences, according to an October 2012 news release from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, which detailed the bridge project.

Kastberg said he thought having a wall on one side of the bridge and a railing on the other would be “kind of weird,” but was pleased that travelers will be treated to a view of Freedom Park, the river and the U.S. Waterski Show Team, which practices near Jumpin’ Jack’s during the summer.

Glenville town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he has heard complaints about the bridge’s solid wall, but praise for it as well from people who said they believe motorists should keep their eyes on the road, not the river.

Koetzle said he is personally not a fan of the wall, and is pleased that half of the view previously available from the bridge will be salvaged.

“I think it’s great from a business point of view, too, for Jumpin’ Jack’s to be visible coming over the bridge,” he noted.

Liza McErlean of Glenville, who regularly crosses the bridge, said she would prefer to have the railing on the other side.

“I don’t think Jumpin’ Jack’s is the most beautiful sight,” she explained. “In the winter, I really enjoy watching the ice jams and where we are in a melt, and I can’t see it. I can’t see the boats; I can’t see the birds. The river is one of our most beautiful things and we can’t see it.”

Christine Dixon of Glenville, who also makes regular use of the bridge, said she thinks the new design should provide as much of a view as possible.

“It’s a bridge. How much more metaphorical can it be for connecting and bringing things together? So it should be open and it should be visual,” she said.

The bridge renovation project is on schedule and on budget, according to Viggiani, who said work should be completed by the end of the year.

Crews are replacing bearings and putting in the forms that will hold up the new deck on the side of the bridge that brings motorists from Schenectady to Scotia. Next, they will tie in the rebar and pour the concrete.

When complete, the bridge will include one 11-foot travel lane in each direction and a 14-foot shared-use lane in each direction to accommodate motorists and bicyclists. The west side of the bridge will feature a 5-foot sidewalk, while the east side will have a 10-foot multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Both the sidewalk and the multi-use path will be separated from the roadway by a 6-inch granite curb. The multi-use path will connect to existing paths on both sides of the river.

 
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comments

September 10, 2013
8:41 a.m.
dagiacalone says...

Thanks should go to the Gazette editorial page for raising this issue, and helping to preserve the eastern view. Sadly, the more majestic "natural" view is on the western side of the bridge. Local and state elected officials must look into the "design-build" process to assure that important design factors -- aesthetic and environmental -- are discussed openly and publicly and assurances given on important issues prior to giving a design-build contract.
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The Governor says that design-build saves money and inconvenience, but we need to know how just how much time was saved with the concrete wall, when there are many approved see-through railing designs available, and how any such savings compares to forever losing a valuable scenic vista. In addition, we need to ask whether the contractor saved the State or itself any added expense.
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Every river bridge shown on the websites of the contractor and architect has a see-through railing. When they decided Schenectady and Scotia travelers -- and our grandchildren -- could do without the scenic vistas of the Mohawk, we were robbed of a valuable regional asset. I would certainly endure the extra time it might take to re-do the westside railing in order to regain that treasured view.

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