The Ferry Street Bridge has been closed to vehicular traffic since early October 2014, when, the question of who owned the bridge still not definitively answered, the City closed the roadway leading up to the bridge. Seven months later, in May 2015, the New York State Department of Transportation, after its annual inspection, ordered the bridge itself closed. Three months after that, in August 2015, city attorney Carl G. Whitbeck determined that the City of Hudson owned the bridge and hence was responsible for replacing it.
Last Thursday, on her seventieth day in office, Mayor Tiffany Martin Hamilton convened a meeting that brought together officials from all levels of government and the recently formed Ferry Street Bridge Working Group. Present were Bill Gustafson, representing Assemblymember Didi Barrett; Jeffrey Cleary, representing State Senator Kathy Marchione; Steve Mann, representing Senator Charles Schumer; David Connors, representing Senator Kirsten Gillibrand; Tom Weiner, from the NYS Department of Transportation; Mike Tucker, from the Columbia Economic Development Corporation; Ken Flood, Columbia County commissioner for planning & economic development; Alan Neumann, president of Historic Hudson; and Anthony Duchessi, of TGW Consulting. Also present were all the members of the Ferry Street Working Group: Mayor Hamilton, mayor's aide Lisa Walsh, city treasurer Heather Campbell, DPW superintendent Rob Perry, HDC executive director Sheena Salvino, First Ward alderman Rick Rector, Third Ward supervisor Don Moore, Fourth Ward supervisor Bill Hughes, and First Ward resident Carole Osterink.
After an opening statement by the mayor, in which she said that she hoped "all of our different offices can work together to find the money for the bridge replacement," Perry spoke about the proposals made by the engineering firm Creighton Manning in their report on the bridge, commissioned by the City last year. The recommended course of action, which will cost an estimated $2.1 million, involves removing the existing bridge and replacing it with a precast concrete bridge. Echoing what he said about the ramp proposed for Promenade Hill, Perry said of the proposed bridge, "It's not a pretty bridge. It's a bridge to get vehicles across the railroad tracks."
Neumann shared his experience getting federal funding for an overpass at the waterfront in Rhinecliff. Money for that project came from the Intermodel Surface Transportation Enhancement Act of 1991 (ISTEA), called by George H. W. Bush, who was president at the time, "the most important transportation bill since President Eisenhower started the Interstate System." Sadly, that was then, and this is now. No such source of federal money is available today.
As the discussion continued, it became clear that the notorious "Bridge to Nowhere" has negatively impacted Hudson's ability to get federal funding for its little bridge to somewhere--the waterfront. In the process of getting rid of bad and corrupt earmarks, all earmarks have been eliminated. "Had this been twelve years ago, fifteen years ago," said Connors, "your Congressional delegation could have earmarked it." Cleary added that member items, at the state level, are also a thing of the past.
It was explained that federal money for transportation comes to the state and is distributed by a formula to the region and then, again by formula, to the county. Moore raised the question of whether the county could spend any of its allotted money on a bridge in Hudson, saying that it was "an informed view" that it could not. Hughes pointed out that the county has a prioritized list of bridges in need of repair, and the Ferry Street Bridge has never been on it. The unfortunate observation was made that even if we had the money now from this source, it would be three years before construction of the bridge could begin.
Tucker recalled the $2.2 million that was granted in 2011 by the Capital Region Economic Development Council to the transloading rail facility that never happened, intimating that that money might be repurposed for the Ferry Street Bridge. Neumann suggested there might be "a whole other pot of money for waterfront access." Cleary spoke of proposed state funding--$200 million a year--in what is being called the Bridge NY program. He noted that it wouldn't be known if these funds will actually be available until the state budget was passed, but he urged the mayor to write letters and the Common Council to pass a resolution. Moore pointed out that the City, in its 2016 budget, had established a $600,000 capital reserve fund for the Ferry Street Bridge, demonstrating its commitment and its recognition of the bridge project as a high priority.
Throughout the discussion, the bridge's importance both for safety and for the economic development were recurrent themes. The mayor concluded that the working group would pursue both avenues.
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK