For the past decade, the Route 120 bridge in downtown Chappaqua has been a point of angst. But on Thursday, local elected officials got to celebrate its reconstruction with a dedication and ribbon cutting.
“We are literally bringing, bridging the past and the future with this project," said New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Joan McDonald, who noted that its architecture - complete with ornate stones, steps and lighting - mimics the look of the original structure that was built in 1930.
“I am so pleased that after years of planning and construction, we can finally see the new and improved Route 120 bridge today," said Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Harrison), who was one of several elected officials to attend. "And I must tell you, as I was looking for this site I drove over it, and it is really so special and so beautiful and consistent with the surroundings here in beautiful Chappaqua.”
The dedication marks a culmination in years of collaborative work between New Castle officials, state legislators, the DOT and the federal government. It included massive reconstructive measures, including a replacement of the overpass, columns, new sidewalks and decking, and the additon of a third lane at the intersection with South Greeley Avenue to make traffic flow smoother. The major construction work has finished, with just landscaping and installation of oramental walkway cobblestones to be done in the spring.
The need for a new bridge came up in the late 1990s, according to outgoing Supervisor Barbara Gerrard, but became even more of an issue in the early 2000s, as the decrepit structure showed major problems.
“You could actually see the sky when you stand underneath," Gerrard said in an interview about its previous state. "There were holes that big, and the rust would come down on the cars and eat away the finish, so nobody parked there anymore.”
The first major report on the bridge came in 2003 from Vollmer Associates. One part of that report, a T-shaped intersection with a traffic lighting system, was looked at by the town but became a controversial proposal. Responding to the concerns - opponents included 2005 independent Supervisor candidate Manny Areces, who had it as an issue that election year - the town opted to preserve the triangular green space at the South Greeley intersection. In addition, even more landscaped strips were added between lanes.
Construction, originally set to take two years and cost roughly $18.5 million, wound up being close to four, with a price tag coming in around $20 million. The original start in 2008 was delayed until the fall because of a lawsuit from then-downtown merchant Gina Gore, which was thrown out. Another delay came in April 2010, when contractor the Conti Group because the state had not sent timely payment due to a late budget. Conti was eventually compensated and two months later.
Officials speaking noted the economic importance of infrastructure work, both in keeping it sound and because of the construction jobs that it creates.
“As we see here in Chappaqua, we can preserve transportation, create jobs and preserve the special places that we all call home," McDonald said.
Residents and merchants who had to deal with the troubles of the construction were also thanked for putting up with the work.
“Most especially, I want to thank the people of New Castle and Chappaqua," said state Assemblyman Robert Castelli (R-Goldens Bridge). "You have had tremendous patience through this project, you have stood with us through thick and thin. The dignity and grace with which the people in this community have dealt with this project is something to be incredibly proud of.”
Looking forward and noting downtown Chappaqua's collection of businesses, Gerrard said in her dedication speech, “my last wish to everyone is go shopping!”