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Detour Vexes Village of Victor

Mon July 07, 2008 - Northeast Edition
Laurie Mercer

Everybody agreed that the old bridge over the railroad tracks on Route 96 in Victor, N.Y.,º needed replacement. So why did the booming little town threaten to sue the DOT?

It may be the sign of harder economic times ahead, but a recently proposed detour in the upstate village of Victor created a firestorm of bad publicity. Even threats of lawsuits greeted the Department of Transportation as it moved forward with its plans to replace an old, 312-ft. (96.1 m) bridge on Route 96 — a primarily east-west highway and the only direct path through town.

Suddenly the anticipated 16,700 cars that use the route daily would have to endure a 0.7-mi. (1.1 km) detour (5.5 mi. [8.8 km] for commercial trucks) for approximately 6 months.

Victor, with its attractive, open countryside and access to high-capacity transportation routes, also is the fastest growing town in Ontario County. The average cost of a new home in 2006 was $293,000. Actively being developed right now are business parks, senior living facilities, town homes, golf courses, multi-unit housing, a hotel, and a new Victor Town Hall — all of them to one degree or another affected by the detour.

Victor’s Route 96 also is a gateway to the popular Finger Lakes region.

Bridges provide links, but Route 96 in Victor is unusual in that it serves as the single main corridor through a very busy and bustling place. Further complications involve careful scheduling with the still active Ontario Central Railroad that runs beneath the bridge.

The project will cost roughly $3.6 million, 80 percent of which will come from federal funds and 20 percent from state funds.

At one point objections to the required detour made the newspaper when several businesses, the town of Victor, and the town of Farmington threatened the DOT with a lawsuit if it did not devise a shorter rerouting of traffic, which it finally did.

DOT also created 3,500 brochures for affected businesses to use in alerting their customers about the detour and improved its Web site about the project. As one communications person said, “We tried to accommodate the business owners as best we could.”

The pre-construction public information meeting, held in October, gave no hint to the discord that would greet the eventual detour plan. Said one information officer for DOT, “Nobody gave us any indication that this was going to be a major deal.”

All threatened lawsuits were eventually dropped.

The existing two-lane bridge, built in 1964 with a narrow shoulder, will be replaced with two 12-ft. (3.6 m) travel lanes and wide shoulders on the same alignment. Demolition of the old bridge took place in early March. Much of it will be recycled. Some of the concrete will be broken up and recycled into fill material on site. The structural steel girders become the property of Crane-Hogan, the company overseeing demolition and rebuilding the bridge.

According to archives, approximately 421,000 lbs. (190,962 kg) of structural steel (excluding reinforcement bars) were used for building the original bridge.

Steve Butts, project manager and superintendent on the project of Crane-Hogan Structural Systems, Spencerport, said, “September 9, 2008, is our drop-dead day for finishing the job.”

Deal or No Deal — Incentives and Disincentives

In the contract for the Route 96 bridge, the DOT placed a monetary clause intended to encourage the contractor to keep the bridge closure to a minimum. The date, Sept. 9, 2008, is in the crosshairs for its completion. For every day the bridge is open to traffic before Sept. 9, the contractor will be paid a $3,000 a day bonus — with a maximum of 19 days (a possible $57,000 payout).

The disincentive clause works in reverse. Every day the bridge is still closed to traffic after Sept. 9, the contractor owes the DOT $3,000 per day. A DOT spokesperson said incentive/disincentive clauses help highway/bridge projects that seriously impact a community keep disruption to traffic at a minimum.

Easy Riders

In order to ramp-up on site for a tighter deadline, Butts said he needs “an extreme amount of planning” to get materials on site as needed.

“I need to be looking at materials, not looking for them,” he added.

His work team assigned to the bridge includes three carpenters, four laborers, a labor apprentice, and two heavy-equipment operators, all seasoned, key performers. He added, “We all think alike. We have one goal to attain.”

Because of the extreme deadline, Butts increased his manpower to work on multiple areas at once. They work slightly longer days and on Saturdays. He also doubled the amount of heavy equipment they might normally rent for a job this size.

“We always rent equipment from local suppliers including Monroe Tractor, Anderson, Five Star Equipment, Admar Supply and others,” said Butts. “For this job we increased the amount of concrete form rental equipment to double capacity. We have enough forms to completely construct the middle piers. On a more routine work schedule, we might lease equipment for one pier and then cycle it between two structures.”

“We are going to try and come out with a good project for everybody,” Butts said.

While the $3.6 million cost of replacing the old bridge with a new one is comparatively low, the necessity of this new Route 96 bridge in Victor is priceless to all concerned. CEG

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