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Bethlehem says: 'Keep Ben's bridge'

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 apparatus and vehicle 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 told The Spotlight. "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.

They did comment, however, that an open Old School Road bridge could have helped save some of structure, which was a total loss.

His property is now a large environmental preserve.

Aside from emergencies, Frankovic also pointed to practical uses of the bridge.

"The closure of this bridge is also an inconvenience. It provides access for all area residents traveling to Route 9, Glenmont, Albany and points north," she said. "We will again have to change our way of life and for how long? Gas is on the average $2.55 a gallon and all detours around the bridge are on the average an additional two and a half miles."

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