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Villa calls for increased attention to city infrastructure

The condition of 17 city-owned bridges was the subject of a press conference held by mayoral candidate Michael Villa on Tuesday on the Prospect St. bridge in Amsterdam. At the conference, Villa cited a recent report from the NY State Department of Transportation that shows that nine of the 17 city-owned bridges are considered “deficient,” two are listed as “structurally deficient” and six are listed as “functionally obsolete.” 15 other bridges in the city are owned and maintained by NY State.

However, according to the NYSDOT, none of these categorizations indicate that the bridges are unsafe to travel on.

Each bridge is rated by NY State on a scale from 1 to 7, with 7 being brand new. Bridges rated under 5 are considered “deficient” and require “corrective maintenance or rehabilitation.” A bridge is categorized as “structurally deficient” if it “typically requires significant maintenance and repair to remain in service and eventual rehabilitation or replacement to address deficiencies.”

The term “functionally obsolete” is not based on a bridge’s structural condition, but on features of the bridge such as its lane width, shoulders, and clearance.

Eight bridges have ratings of five or above. The city’s highest rated bridge was built in 2003 on Fourth Ave. and has a near perfect score of 6.44, but is still listed as “functionally obsolete.”

“Amsterdam has 17 bridges that are in deplorable shape,” said Villa. “Our bridge infrastructure needs real attention.”

In a written statement issued at the conference, Villa said “All of our 17 city-owned bridges are in urgent need of maintenance and repairs, but Ann Thane is focused on spending $1 million on aesthetic work on the Mohawk Valley Pedestrian Bridge.”

In June, State Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara announced a $1 million grant from NY State for the city to complete historic markers, engravings, and other artistic additions to the pedestrian bridge.

While Villa said the pedestrian bridge is a “good thing,” he said the project is an example of the city “putting it’s wants before it’s needs.”

“Our city should be working with state representatives on infrastructure projects that are going to matter and are going to relate to our entire city,” said Villa. “It’s the mayor’s responsibility to set that priority. As your mayor, the priorities of this administration, if elected, would be to put public safety, our crumbling infrastructure, and the blight that dots our neighborhoods at the top of the list.”

Reached for comment on Wednesday, City Engineer Rich Miller said that except for one recent issue found on the Guy Park Ave. Extension bridge, currently “there’s no issues with any of the bridges that I know of.”

He said his department regularly takes care of maintenance issues on the city’s bridges that are discovered by state inspections. He noted that because the state only inspects bridges every two years, the current report may not reflect recent repairs.

As an example, he pointed out the bridge on Main St., which was last inspected on 9/24/2014 and is listed as “structurally deficient” had already been repaired.

Miller also explained the categorization of “functionally obsolete.”

“What that means, if you take a design that is produced today, it will have two 12 foot lanes, 3 foot shoulders, sidewalks and guard rails on both sides. You go look at the bridges that are rated here as functionally obsolete, you will find they are missing one or the other. Either they are missing a sidewalk, might be missing shoulders, the lanes might be 10 feet instead of 12. That, [according to NY State] is stated as functionally obsolete. There’s nothing…wrong with the bridge.”

According to Miller, the Fourth Ave. bridge, which is one of the city’s newest bridges, is listed as “functionally obsolete” only because it has one sidewalk instead of two.

Summary of the conditions of city-owned bridges according to NYSDOT as of 8/31/2015

Road Status   Condition Rating  Date of last inspection
Fourth Ave FO 6.44 07/21/14
Florida Ave N 5.44 4/8/13
Hewitt St N 5.38 8/8/13
Willow St N 5.30 11/15/13
Second Ave N 5.29 11/15/13
Florida Ave FO 5.15 4/8/13
Gilliland Ave N 5.07 7/11/13
Federal St. Ext FO 5.00 10/9/13
Florida Ave N 4.98 4/8/13
Guy Park Ave Ext N 4.84 6/18/13
Clizbe Ave FO 4.79 7/2/14
Forest Ave N 4.00 7/30/14
Steadwell Ave N 4.00 10/10/13
Crescent Ave FO 3.94 6/16/13
Locust Ave FO 3.86 10/23/14
Main St SD 3.80 9/24/14
Prospect St SD 3.79 7/2/13

SD=Structurally deficient, FO=Functionally obsolete, N = Neither SD or FO

Jay Towne and Tim Becker both contributed to this article.

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4 Responses to Villa calls for increased attention to city infrastructure

  1. Rob Millan says:

    Let’s talk about a gross misinterpretation of facts. The report clearly states ‘functionally obsolete’ means only that a lane isn’t built to the current standard, whatever that be, or that a walkway exists only on one side versus both. The article takes, for example, the Pulaski Bridge on 4th Ave, one built only about a decade ago, that by DOT standards of today is considered ‘functionally obsolete’ for having lanes not wide enough. Hell, that bridge could probably go on another 50 years as ‘functionally obsolete’ and still serve its purpose. Mr. Villa seems to think that ‘functionally obsolete’ means ‘days from falling apart,’ which could not be further from the truth.

    What about those 17 bridges, of which 8 are given excellent ratings? Mr. Villa, citing no authority, has unilaterally declared that ‘All of our 17 city-owned bridges are in urgent need of maintenance and repairs…’ Apparently ‘NEARLY 50% of the bridges are in excellent or near-excellent shape’ is the same as ‘ALL Amsterdam bridges that are in deplorable shape.’

    Mr. Villa seems to be manufacturing an issue that simply does not exist simply for talking points.

  2. This is political folly. The city does not have 17 bridges in deplorable shape. Get your facts straight.

    My administration has never neglected our “needs” and has worked vigorously with the state to address infrastructure deficiencies, having received close to $20M in grants to tend to these issues and rebuild our city. We’ve been revitalizing downtown and the waterfront, rehabilitating streets, water/sewer/storm systems, upgrading parks and city facilities, and tackling blight in our neighborhoods.

    Politicians should be mindful of the impact their words have on this community. Falsely misrepresenting the facts for political gain is alarming to residents and hurtful to the city. We are safe community with relatively low crime rates, beautiful neighborhoods, and amenities that make this a great place to live and work.

    That’s the message that needs repeating.

    Also, I note that this man never cites specific remedies to problems. Political rhetoric won’t cut it. It’s been 10 months since he announced his candidacy and he still doesn’t have a plan. Now, THAT’S deplorable.

  3. Dan Weaver says:

    One correction Tim. There are only seven bridges rated above 5 not eight. Ten bridges are 5.0 or lower. Since 5.01 is where the rating good starts, then there are 10 bridges that are rated fair or below. Also, while it is true that none of these bridges are unsafe, the Federal Highway Administration’s structural evaluation of the Prospect Street Bridge where the press conference took place is “high priority of replacement.” That bridge is 103 years old. Some other city bridges are between 75 and 100 years old. So while the situation is not as bad as Villa states, neither is it as good as the other side says. The state will be spending 8 million dollars on its bridges in Amsterdam between now and 2016. These bridges are much newer than the city owned ones. It certainly would not hurt to have a strategic plan in place to deal with our aging bridges.

    • Tim Becker says:

      I should have worded it “Eight bridges have ratings of five or above.” A rating of below 5 is what the state considers “deficient”. I’ve edited it, thanks for pointing that out.