The Scarsdale Board of Trustees held an open meeting with representatives from Westchester County on the night of July 11th to discuss the Crane Road Bridge Replacement Project. The three-year construction project is currently underway and planned for completion by February 2015. The meeting was well attended by residents who filled the third floor meeting room, some who live near the construction projection. Also in attendance were representatives from the business community including Rush Wilson as well as Carolyn Stevens and Lewis Arlt from the Scarsdale Chamber of Commerce who were concerned about the closure’s effect on local retailers.
The meeting provided an opportunity for residents and retailers to ask questions, voice concerns and get more information about how this massive construction project will affect them in the future. Numerous topics were discussed, including the length of the project, closure of the southbound exit of the BRP into the Village of Scarsdale, the left bound turn signal just before the bridge, the closure of the Pipeline entrance ramp onto the Bronx River Parkway and the noise that workmen will create during the night hours.
One man asked why more prefab elements could not be used to speed the work, but the County replied that foundations have to be dug and the concrete supports for the bridge are so large that they need to be built on site. In addition, since the bridge is a historical landmark, these pillars need to be approved by the landmarks construction. A 54-inch water main at the site needs to be relocated. Mark Lewis asked if working seven days a week could shorten the length of the project. In response, the County representative said that they would have to pay workers time and a half or double time for nights and weekends, and they need to be fiscally prudent. They already plan to do the demolition work at night as required by the MTA and more overtime means even higher expenses. However, there are incentives in the contract for early completion, so the County is hopeful that the work can be done expeditiously.
The most discussed concern of the night seemed to be the southbound Pipeline entrance ramp onto the Bronx River Parkway, which will remain closed for a majority of the project to allow the construction crew access to the site. With the natural barriers, the Metro-North Railway and the current bridge, the area that the workmen have to build for this project is very limited, so they had little choice but to close down the Pipeline ramp, which is the least used in the area to access the Bronx River Parkway.
Another major concern with the construction project is the continued need for the closure of the southbound exit into the Village of Scarsdale and its left turn signal. Many merchants who work in the village are concerned with the current plan for an 18-month closure during the latter period of work, and the threat it poses to their businesses. The County had originally projected that the exit would be closed for two years but revised it to 18 months in response to concerns from the retail community who feared that it would prevent customers from coming to the village. However, many at the meeting were still unsatisfied. The County agreed to revisit the issue and attempt to further revise their plans.
Currently, on the southbound parkway at Crane Road there is a left turn signal at the exit and a traffic light that redirects traffic to allow cars in the southbound lane to exit into the village. That exit is now regulated by the left turn signal and a traffic light that redirects traffic and allows cars in the southbound lane to exit into the village. However, during the latter parts of the construction, the signal along with the southbound exit will be removed. There will be only one lane for northbound traffic and two lanes for southbound traffic. Halting northbound traffic to allow that left turn into the village would create a great deal of traffic congestion and a dramatic increase in potential accidents. The problem will intensify later on in the project when the second southbound lane is removed along with the light and the exit into the village.
When the subject of noise at night was brought up, the representatives said that there was little they could do, as many of the construction tools have noisy safety features required by law. Also the MTA requires that work be done at night as not to interrupt or endanger train service. Last, the bridge currently accommodates 36,000 vehicles a day and is unsafe. The County has to balance the current needs of a few local residents against potential safety issues on the bridge for generations to come. So there is little they can do to change the situation. “So, it’s basically suck it up and deal with it,” one frustrated resident remarked.
Article and photos by contributor Cara Nesi.