SARATOGA SPRINGS — City Supervisor Matthew Veitch recently went to the nation’s capital in part to sell the idea of replacing a popular bridge over the Adirondack Northway—one that the state no longer considers a target for complete removal.
On February 28, Veitch met with U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Willsboro), and other federal leaders who represent the Capital Region, as part of a delegation from the National Association of Counties.
“The congresswoman and I discussed a range of topics related to the district,” Veitch said in a statement. “The most important issue I felt which was discussed was urging support for infrastructure funding.”
Veitch confirmed that the Nelson Avenue Extension bridge was singled out. Last year, that span’s fate was the subject of a concerted advocacy campaign led by the Balet family.
“I knew that bridge needed to stay open for the whole community,” offered Suzanne Balet-Haight, who is busy this week preparing for her season at Balet Flowers and Design a short distance from the structure. State officials are closely monitoring the aging bridge.
Last season, Balet-Haight said, her business had to be put “on hold” while she very publicly opposed a plan by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT) to tear down the bridge, which is utilized by many of her customers. She had reached out to Veitch, Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen, Malta Supervisor Vincent DeLucia and other officials for support.
During his visit with Stefanik, Veitch indicated that he was moved by the ultimate success of that lobbying campaign. “The rallying point for the congresswoman was that federal infrastructure [funding] needs to be available to provide for all critical transportation links,” he said.
Bryan Viggiani, a DOT spokesman, said the agency’s current priority is to replace two bridges over the Northway on East High Street in Malta and Crescent Avenue in Saratoga Springs. A competitive bidding process for those projects is expected to take place this summer, he said.
“Safety remains our top priority,” Viggiani added, “and we are committed to continuing the maintenance effort on the Nelson Avenue Extension bridge.”
Tom Flanagin, the communications director for Stefanik, provided a statement downplaying her ability to control federal money used for specific bridge replacements. “Congress operates under an earmark ban that does not allow lawmakers to request funding for individual projects,” he said.
“Our office is always pleased to assist with federal grant requests,” Flanagin explained, “and we encourage local officials to reach out to us for letters of support and assistance navigating the grant process.”