Fate of Oxford bridge project still undecided

NORWICH – Chenango County is competing with New York State for the same pot of federal money allocated for highway and bridge repair projects in Region 9, and the fate of the Main Street Bridge in Oxford hangs in the balance.

Chenango County Department of Public Works Director Randy Gibbon reported in late October that major portions of federal money previously allocated to regions for locally-administered projects would be held back by the state. The cut-back for Chenango would total $11.5 million over five years, including the estimated $3.2 million span over the Chenango River as well as planned improvements to county Routes 35, 32 and 34.

Now, after several conversations with state DOT personnel, Gibbon said the 56-year old bridge may be back on the list for replacement in December 2009.

“That’s with an emphasis on ‘maybe,’” he said before a meeting of the Public Works Committee last week.

Gibbon questioned how the state could de-obligate projects that have been on the books for years and a portion of federal funds have already been expended on them. Chenango County paid $200,000 for an engineering study of the Oxford bridge’s replacement. In addition, foundation cracks were repaired in 2006.

Federal law states that projects must be completed within a specified time period, the DPW director said, and, if exceeded, the money expended would have to be paid back.

“We are not stopping the project, the state is taking us off the list,” said Gibbon.

When reached for comment Friday, a Region 9 representative said the state had adopted “a new concentration on bridge safety,” but could not say whether the Oxford bridge would be funded. On Monday, a NYSDOT representative said the Main Street Bridge was never eliminated from the list in the first place.

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