Bethlehem says: 'Keep Ben's bridge'

As the state's Department of Transportation reviews Albany County's recommendation to take down the Old School Road bridge in Selkirk, local residents and officials are asking the county to look at some more options.

The Albany County Executive's Office hired Clough Harbour and Associates to help evaluate three main options for repairing, replacing and removing the bridge and decided to close it on July 6. County officials ultimately said the most cost effective option was to remove the bridge, which traverses 11,000 feet over about 50 CSX rail lines.

Albany County Commissioner of Public Works Michael Franchini said it would cost $16 million to replace the County Route 53 bridge now known as Ben's bridge, about $13 to repair it and just over $1 million to tear it down.

He said the cost were simply "too high."

CSX owns the super structure and the abutments of 86-year-old bridge, according to Franchini, and the county owns the decking and the bridge's surface. With the bridge now closed, traffic is currently be detoured to nearby routes 32 and 396.

Christine Frankovic, who lives on South Albany Road, said closing the bridge was a mistake in the 1980s and it's a mistake today.

"My greatest concern with the closure of this bridge is that it has put the safety of the residents living in the South Albany Road area in jeopardy," Frankovic said.

She said tearing the bridge down for good could lead to deadly delays.

"Emergency services now encounter significant delays when responding to this area," she said. "Considering the close proximity to the sprawling CSX rail yard, which often handles volatile and hazardous cargo, and where derailments and chemical spills are not unheard of, this fear cannot be stressed enough."

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."

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