The county never intended that the project, paid for by federal stimulus funds, would leave roads closed for this long, said David Bolles, Deputy Commissioner of the Ulster County Department of Public Works.
It was the discovery of a fiberoptic cable that brought construction to a halt. Bid-winning construction firm Arris Contracting of Poughkeepsie contacted Dig Safe, which notified them that a fiberoptic cable running alongside the Hudson Valley Rail Trail was installed in the late 1990s. The latest survey available to Ulster County, which assumed responsibility for the project from the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) in 1999, was completed prior to the cables’ installation.
“When the contractor called Dig Safe, he was advised that there were underground utilities, which was a surprise to everybody on this side of the fence,” said Bolles.
According to a legal agreement, the Town of Lloyd could not move the cable for 180 days. In the end, the delay and associated costs added $41,000 and 94 days to the first bridge.
Inspectors are expected to green-light paving on April 25. If so, paving should be completed by April 29, at which point Arris will move west to the second bridge. New Paltz Road will remain closed, with a detour at Riverside Road.
Site preparation has already begun at the second bridge. Trees have been cut to allow Central Hudson and Verizon to relocate onsite utility poles.
“We’re optimistic that it’s going to go smoothly, and we’re hoping that we can keep people out of the site to ensure that. We had people riding their bikes through the last time... Human involvement can become and issue. Workers aren’t expecting to see someone coming. It’s dangerous, and it slows construction,” said Bolles.
If no issues arise, New Paltz Road is scheduled to reopen on Sept. 16.
The detour has been an issue for New Paltz Road neighbors -- especially the Highland Central School District. Transportation Director Terry Elia estimates that the first detour has cost the district an additional $30,000+ in fuel and associated rerouting expenditures. The closure of bridge two may prove even harder to accommodate.
“[The first bridge] has been a real hardship and it cost us a lot of money, but my biggest fear is that next bridge. Every bus in the district goes the other way. Just about every one will be [rerouted] onto 299 or 9W, which could become [a safety issue],” said Elia.