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Historic Wilmington Bridge has to be Replaced

Commuters and businesses will have to deal with detours for three months.
A historic bridge in Wilmington, New York has to be replaced.

The New York State Department of Transportation held a public meeting Thursday to discuss the proposed replacement of the Route 86 bridge, which goes over the West Branch of the Ausable River.

Because of the age, location, and surrounding infrastructure of the bridge, coming up with an easy fix isn’t simple.

NYSDOT officials plan to start construction in the winter of 2014, and hope to complete the project by the summer of 2015.

NYSDOT considered numerous detours while construction is underway. They settled on a detour that will lead drivers around Wilmington for March, April and May of 2015.

That’s right at the start of the season for Tom Conway.

“Get you in the water, learn what you need to learn and hopefully catch some fish. And most people do,” Conway said.

Conway owns AuSable River Two Fly shop, a fly fishing retail store and guide service. His shop sits on Route 86, next to the AuSable River and the Wilmington Bridge.

About 2,000 drivers pass over the bridge daily.

“When you talk about location, location, location this is it,” Conway said.

Conway and other business owners expressed their concerns about the detour Thursday night to transportation officials. They’re concerned that much of their drive-by business will dissipate with the bridge construction.

Angelo Trichilo with the DOT says sticking to their timetable is important.

We have a three month window to get the bridge work done,” Trichilo said.

Conway and the rest of the community understand the bridge has to be rebuilt, and for the most part they're happy with the state's plan.

People at the meeting expressed their content with the DOT’s plan to keep the new bridge as similar to the old one as possible. They also hope that an incentive in the contract to get the bridge done on-time will be effective.

“It's in their interest to get the work done quickly and efficiently,” Trichilo said.

However community members are still concerned about what the detour means for rescue response times.

No one at the meeting was sure if emergency services had come up with a plan. The DOT also made clear they can’t pay for electrical installations on the bridge, and the funding has yet to be secured by the town.

Conway hopes the incentive will keep contractors on schedule because the closures already eat up at half the fishing season. He's just hoping it doesn't take a bite out of his business.

“Hopefully this day comes to pass and we'll get through it,” Conway said.

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