Tuesday, March 17
HOOSICK, N.Y. — Federal stimulus funds will be used to replace the closed Caretaker's Bridge which spans the Walloomsac River near the Barnet Homestead.

The project has been estimated at $1.2 million and will be completely funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The announcement was made Saturday at a press conference by U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, Democratic congressional candidate Scott Murphy and Hoosick Town Supervisor Marilyn Douglas at the site where the bridge now exists.

Murphy, a Glens Falls businessman, is running for the open 20th Congressional District seat against New York Assembly Minority Leader Jim Tedisco. The seat was left vacant by Kirsten Gillibrand's appointment to the U.S. Senate, and a special election has been scheduled for March 31.

Charles Tutunjian, an engineer with Creighton Manning Engineering, the company that has done the design work for the new bridge, said work is scheduled to begin sometime in July after the project goes out to bid in May. He said the project should be completed by Thanksgiving of 2009.

Design 75 percent complete

Tutunjian said the design work is 75 percent complete, and brought drawings of the two proposed bridge designs. One design is essentially identical to the current bridge with an open steel truss. The second design simply adds red siding and a roof to make it look more like a covered bridge. Tutunjian said adding the cover will cost an additional $100,000, which will not be covered by stimulus money. It's up to the town to decide whether or not to get the cover, Tutunjian said, adding that the plain open truss design allows for a cover to be added at a later date.

He said the Caretaker's Road will be reconstructed up to the railroad tracks, and no additional parking will be added to either side of the bridge. Had the project not been funded by stimulus money, the town would have had to pay 5 percent of the project's cost. With the federal funding, the town will save roughly $60,000.

Plans for a new bridge have been in the works since 2006, said Douglas at the press conference. "We were just beginning to think we weren't going to have a bridge," she said.

The current Caretaker's Bridge was constructed in the early 1900s. It was closed 20 years ago to vehicles and was completely closed to all traffic, including pedestrian, two years ago. Tutunjian said the bridge is in danger of collapsing under its own weight, as the steel supports beneath it are severely corroded.

The bridge sits next to the Barnett Homestead which is near the Bennington Battlefield. Douglas underscored the historical significance of the battlefield, and the access a new bridge would provide to tourists.

"If it were not for some of the battles fought on the soil of the districts we wish to represent, America would be different," said Tonko.

Tonko's remarks used the Caretaker's Bridge project as a backdrop to voice his and Murphy's support of the Obama administration's stimulus bill. Tonko said the stimulus money would help improve the country's transportation and energy infrastructures.

The press conference doubled as a campaign stop for Murphy, who had also attended the Hoosick Falls St. Patrick's Day Parade earlier in the day, and has visited the town once before in February. Murphy and Tedisco have both been campaigning on a job creation platform. Murphy has attacked Tedisco for not having a position on the stimulus bill, which Murphy said he supports and would have voted for had he been in Congress at the time.

Tedisco announced at a press conference on Monday that he was against the stimulus bill and was swiftly criticized by Murphy's campaign.

"(The campaign) has in many ways become a referendum on the stimulus package," Murphy said.

According to a Siena Research Institute poll, as of May 12, Tedisco leads Murphy by four points, down from an initial lead of 12. "We need to get the message out that the election exists, and the differences between myself and my opponent," Murphy said.

Contact Keith Whitcomb at kwhitcomb@benningtonbanner.com