Pirskanen

Finnish exchange student Saga Pirskanen speaks Thursday at Memorial City Hall in Auburn after city councilors named her an honorary U.S. citizen.

Greg Mason, The Citizen

AUBURN — Heavy deterioration at points along the North Division Street bridge have prompted Auburn officials to pursue temporary repairs.

Members of the Auburn City Council acted Thursday to allocate $72,200 to erect temporary braces beneath the bridge, which is located just off the westbound Arterial over Owasco River.

The bridge is scheduled for a full replacement, which is expected to start in mid-2017, officials said Thursday. However, immediate action was needed after the state Department of Transportation issued the city multiple structural flags earlier this month.

The DOT cited advanced deterioration along the bridge's piers and erosion at the ends of several concrete beams, according to a state spokesperson.

The spokesperson said the city needs to take corrective action within six weeks of the DOT's notification on Nov. 30. This action could entail closure, repairs or reduction of the bridge's posted 5-ton load.

City councilors considered two options: Close the bridge through most, if not all, of 2017 ahead of the bridge replacement; or install the temporary splints without the need for a closure. An average of 6,500 vehicles cross the bridge on a daily basis, according to Mark Laistner of Popli Engineering.

"As much as I don't want to spend money on something that's going to be temporary ... I do think that extending the closure of it, we're going to have enough grief when the actual work is done," said Councilor Terry Cuddy.

Bill Lupien, superintendent of the city's engineering department, said the braces should be installed beneath the bridge over the course of a few weeks in January. The work will be handled by BVR Construction Company of Churchville, the same firm handling repairs to the city's North Division Street hydroeletric plant.

Lupien said BVR's presence at North Division Street — and the opportunity to keep the braces to potentially reuse the steel when they are no longer needed — may have been the reason why the firm's project price was nearly $100,000 cheaper than the next-lowest bid, $168,895.36.

"Who wants to work out in the middle of winter in a river? That's not the ideal conditions for a construction project, but BVR is already out there right next door," he said.

Thursday's council vote was 4-1, with Councilor Jimmy Giannettino opposed.

Laistner said the full bridge replacement project is expected to close a .24-mile portion of North Division Street — from the start of the bridge to around Aurelius Avenue — for at least six months. He and Lupien both said designers will do their best to limit that period, while the total project is expected to continue through 2018.

In considering a closure, Laistner pointed to routes along Aurelius Avenue and Washington Street as detours. Giannettino said he believes those detours were reasonable alternatives, while the indefinite timetable regarding the closure also factored into his opposition.

"It's not that I prefer the closure. I just didn't want to spend the money on something that's going to be torn down," he said.

In other news

• A Finnish exchange student who will live in Auburn over the course of the school year was recognized by the city council as an honorary U.S. citizen.

Saga Pirskanen was honored at Memorial City Hall with a special ceremony. Pirskanen's visit is being facilitated by the Auburn Rotary Club as part of the international Rotary Youth Exchange study-abroad program.

Pirskanen comes from Vihti, Finland. Auburn Rotarian Heather Paris, the club's youth exchange officer, said the program takes a special student to leave their family and adopting a new lifestyle with a host family for a year.

"(Saga) has been such a delight. We are so privileged to have her here as a part of this program," Paris said.

Staff writer Greg Mason can be reached at (315) 282-2239 or greg.mason@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @CitizenMason.

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