Cost Escalation Creates Questions for Future of Peconic River Bridge Proposal

Peconic River
On the Riverfront, dawn

The folks at Southampton Town who hope to build a pedestrian bridge from a planned county park in Riverside across the Peconic River to Riverhead’s riverfront boardwalk by the Long Island Aquarium got a bit of sticker shock when they took a look at some conceptual ideas for the project in July.

They had been expecting the project to cost about $1.5 million, but two designs provided by town consultants AECOM pinned the project at between $3.3 and $3.9 million, Southampton Municipal Works Director Christine Fetten and Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone told the town board at a work session July 23.

The town had been expecting to seek a New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation CFA Grant for the project, but has not yet applied for the grant, said Mr. Zappone. He hopes the town will apply for the grant in the 2016 funding cycle.

AECOM’s feasibility study was also prepared using grant funds from New York State.

In order to be eligible for public funding, the bridge will need to be accessible to people in wheelchairs, making the design particularly tricky. Ms. Fetten said that incorporating elevators into the design, in a floodplain, would cost about $800,000 apiece, making the project even more costly than the options that were considered.

Mr. Zappone said the town had tried to make the bridge handicapped accessible by non-mechanical means, incorporating a gentle slope and switchbacks in the approach to the bridge.

The first proposal would be a 795-foot-long bridge with a gentle 5 degree slope, and would cost $3.9 million, while a 661-foot version with a slightly steeper 8.33 degree slope would cost $3.3 million.

Mr. Zappone said the architects had also designed the bridge to allow for boats to navigate underneath it and had incorporated observation platforms into the design. He said that he and the Riverside Economic Development Task Force had unanimously chosen AECOM to do the work because the firm presented an “innovative and iconic look” for the bridge.

“Something of this iconic nature, is it really feasible?” he asked the board.

Southampton now plans to present the feasibility study to members of the Riverhead Town Board, said Mr. Zappone, who added that AECOM can still adjust some variables such as the size of boats that will be able to navigate under the bridge, in order to try to lower the cost. He said the Riverhead Town Board has not yet discussed their town’s role in funding the bridge.

The project would require Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers permits, as well as state DEC permits, Suffolk County Parks approval and several approvals from Riverhead Town.

While board members are discussing the future of the bridge project, Mr. Zappone said Suffolk County is working on grant funding to build a beautiful riverfront park on the 14-acre property they own in Riverside.

“Improvement to the park is integral to this plan as well, ” he said.

Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst added that a walkway through that park would include jogging and biking trails, allowing people to travel across the bridge to Riverhead.

While the bridge as designed would not be wide enough to ride a bicycle across, pedestrians could walk across with a bicycle.

“I’d be interested to know what Riverhead thinks about it and what the county thinks about it,” said Ms. Throne-Holst. “I know it fits into the maritime activites there.”

 

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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