Bethlehem says: 'Keep Ben's bridge'

A local man died at the CSX rail yard in Selkirk on May 10 following a train coupling accident. The incident was pointed to as an example by the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) and the United Transportation Union (UTU) in a June petition filed with the Federal Railroad Administration to ban "one-man crews."

The bridge was open at the time of that incident.

Selkirk Fire Chief William Borger told The Spotlight that because of the 15-ton weight limit on the bridge, most of the department's larger fire vehicles cannot cross the bridge.

He said his personnel have already gone around the bridge "for years now."

But now any emergency vehicle under 15 tons that previously used the Route 53 bridge now has to go a mile and half in either direction to get to the other side.

Director of Bethlehem's emergency management office, John Brennan, said although the bridge's closure would not hamper the Selkirk Fire Department, it could definitely slow down other emergency responders such as police and ambulance crews.

"As far as emergency management, it's a concern, because it adds a little bit of time to normal response times that EMS and police may have," Brennan said. "Time is a valuable factor in an emergency situation."

Overall, Brennan said, "We'd like to see what the future brings, we'd like to see it rebuilt."

The closed bridge has raised eyebrows in the past as well.

In January of 1989, Robert H. Rienow, a nationally renowned environmentalist and founder of the state's Audubon Society, died inside of his home on Rarick Road after embers from a woodstove set a showcase ablaze. The Selkirk Fire Department said at the time that Rienow, a former University at Albany professor, was already dead when they arrived and little could have changed the outcome.

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