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Massena’s aluminum trail restoration project may be dead

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MASSENA - Unless village officials can find an alternate funding source, it appears the proposed project to renovate the village’s aluminum foot bridge connecting East Orvis Street to Center Street may be dead.

And it could end up costing the village well over a quarter million dollars to scrap the project. But village officials said it would cost far more, in the neighborhood of $1 million, if they move forward to complete the project without finding additional funding sources.

Should the project move forward, the village’s superintendent of the Department of Public Works, Hassan A. Fayad, said the village would be left footing the bill for the more than $900,000 funding shortfall for the work.

Fred Mastroianni, vice president at the Albany-based Greenman-Perderson engineering firm, told village board members in December the project would include 5-foot wide sidewalks with Americans with Disabilities Act ramps leading up to the 10-foot wide asphalt trail, which crosses the Grasse River near Liberty Avenue and ends up on East Orvis Street. The main focal point of the project would be repairs to the foot bridge, which would be rehabilitated with 10-foot wide precast concrete slabs.

This, he said, would provide enough room for walkers and joggers, as well as bicyclists. The current bridge is much narrower and only has room for one lane of traffic.

He said at the time the project was expected to have a final price tag of $1.826 million, including the $288,000 in engineering costs already paid for by the village. Mr. Mastroianni told village board members he estimated the remaining cost of the project would be $1.25 million range just below the $1,153,800 the village has available for the project.

But on the bid opening day in early January there was just one bid on the table. Tuscarora submitted a bid of $2,056,358 - a base bid of $1,932,591 and bid for the alternate work of $123,767. Village officials rejected the Tuscarora bid and decided to rebid the project after seeing those numbers.

The village has in its possession a grant for $1.153 million, but that is well short of the project’s final price tag.

“You’re looking at more than $2 million,” Mr. Fayad said Tuesday night, explaining the project itself would likely cost more than $1.5 million on top of $293,000 in engineering and inspection costs. Thus far, Mr. Fayad said the village has already spent $288,000 on engineering to get the project started.

Should the project stall out, that is money the village will be forced to pay back to the state Department of Transportation, who issued the grant.

So, what we will have is drawings for a project in case we win the lottery?” Village Trustee Timothy Ahlfeld asked rhetorically.

“The lottery is a few miles up the road,” Mayor James F. Hidy replied, referring to the New York Power Authority.

Mr. Hidy said he had requested funding for the project from the power authority, noting they recently announced more than $1 million in funding for a series of trails on an island in Louisville.

“They just funded $1 million to put a walking trail on an island no one can get to,” he said. “We should be able to get some money from them too.”

Mr. Hidy said he has made a request to State Senator Joseph A. Griffo’s office for roughly $1 million that would be used to complete the project, money Mr. Hidy said the village needs in order to do the work.

“I’ve had discussions with Sen. Griffo’s office to see if we could get some extra funding to move this project along,” he said, adding the request has not yet been approved.

“Obviously with things the way they are down, there he hasn’t been able to meet up with the right people,” Mr. Hidy said.

Mr. Fayad said the village is seeking $1.388 million.

“We’re looking for assistance from our friends in Albany,” Mr. Fayad said. “That’s the only way this project is moving forward.”

“If we have no project, we will have to pay back what has been spent,” he said, referring to the initial engineering costs.

The project has been on the table since 2006 when the village secured a $1 million federal grant through the state Department of Transportation in 2006 to finance the project and had been scaled back twice due to funding concerns and logistical issues related to land acquisition.

The original plan called for extending a trial from the footbridge to the Water Intake plant on Route 131, but it was scaled back after running into logistical problems. The initial project was revised and called for the refurbishment of the footbridge as well as new sidewalks and crosswalks along North Main Street and Stoughton and Liberty avenues.

The first revision called for the trail to run from the footbridge off East Orvis Street to North Main Street and Owl Avenue.

Funding issues later led the village board to trim the project to simply restoring the aluminum footbridge crossing the Grasse River and its approaches.

The New York Power Authority had initially pledged $185,000 for the project. But when the project was revised so the project no longer reached the water intake plant and the rest of NYPA’s trail system along the St. Lawrence River, the agency pulled its funding.

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