The eight-year fight to replace the aged Otis bridge, carrying Otis Lane over the Boquet River just south of Elizabethtown, is finally nearing an end.
The new span — which cost the county $250,000 — will be rated for loads of up to 40 tons, where the old 1914 Otis Bridge was only rated for three tons, making it impassable to emergency vehicles and log trucks.
County leaders, to their credit, stepped to the plate and addressed this public safety issue.
But did they need to spend taxpayer dollars to relocate the old rusted bridge to the Essex County Fairgrounds where it will be used as a footbridge? There are a lot of aged historic structures owned by the county — the old county jail is one example. Should they all be transported to the county fairground for the sake of posterity?
With the price of iron near historic levels, wouldn’t the old bridge have significant salvage value?
And, while the bridge was listed on the National Inventory for Historic Bridges, let’s be realistic — the span has little historic significance. The covered bridge in Jay has historical significance. The old Lake Champlain bridge that was blown to smithereens had historical significance. This rusted old tangle of iron does not.
So why spend the money to move it to Westport so a few fairgoers can us it as a catchall for discarded fried dough and half eaten corn dogs?
Then, to add insult to injury, the old bridge got stuck at the traffic light in Elizabethtown Feb. 7 en route to the county fairgrounds, holding up morning commuters for nearly 20 minutes.
It seems making a 45-degree turn with a 40-foot bridge is no simple task — especially during rush hour. It got stuck again in the S-turns just past the Elizabethtown Library leaving town. Was this headache really warranted?
The Essex County DPW did an outstanding job replacing the former bridge. The county was responsible for the old bridge, it had become a public safety issue, and county highway workers stepped in and replaced it.
But the old bridge should have been cut up on site and sold for its salvage value. There is a reason the state of New York did not try and save the old Lake Champlain bridge or relocate it somewhere for the sake of prosperity.
It had significant historic value to thousands of local residents.
But saving it was cost prohibitive. So was the relocation of the Otis Bridge, albeit on a much smaller level.
No matter what the cost of relocating it, however, we believe the money and time invested could have been better spent on a more worthwhile county project.
There are other bridges that need immediate attention. Ford Bridge and Martin’s Bridge, both in Schroon, and Moriah Center Bridge in Moriah have all been red-flagged for replacement in 2013.
Wouldn’t the money and time spent on relocating the Otis Bridge been better spent at those locations?
These are very trying economic times. Spending the money to save and relocate an old rusty bridge for use at a fairground that may itself soon be on the chopping block was not a prudent financial decision.
Our county supervisors need to spend more time prioritizing what they spend our tax dollars on and less time holding up morning commuters.