Steven Ketch

Popli Design Group Highway Design manager Steven Ketch explains the scope of the North Division Street Bridge Replacement Project during Tuesday's Administrative Law Hearing. 

AUBURN — The city of Auburn will have to wait about three months for a state Department of Transportation judge to hand down a ruling regarding the impact replacing the North Division Street bridge could have on a portion of the Finger Lakes Railway. 

During an administrative law hearing on the North Division Street Bridge Replacement Project Tuesday afternoon, representatives from the city of Auburn, the Finger Lakes Railway Company and the DOT testified about various facets of the project. DOT Administrative Law Judge and Assistant Counsel Alicia McNally presided over the hearing.

The project includes replacing the North Division Street bridge, which has seen heavy deterioration. The Auburn City Council voted in December to authorize funding for temporary repairs to the bridge after the DOT ordered the city to take immediate action to improve the bridge's safety

In addition to replacing the bridge, the project will align the intersection between North Division and Columbus streets, add a left-turn lane from Columbus Street onto the Arterial West and reduce the skew of the railroad tracks that pass over Columbus Street.

The radius of the curb along the right-hand turning lane from Arterial West to Columbus Street will also be increased to accommodate large tractor trailers.

Popli Design Group Highway Design Manager Steven Ketch and Finger Lakes Railway Manager of Signals and Buildings Mark Pullen both said the radius of the curb makes it difficult for large trucks to turn safely. Pullen said he has had to replace a railroad signal twice in the past five years because a tractor trailer knocked it over while making a turn.  

Popli Design was contracted by the city of Auburn to work on the design portion of the project.  

The project will not only make the bridge safer, but also alleviate some of the traffic congestion on Columbus Street during peak traffic hours, Ketch said. 

"The theory is if you improve traffic flow, you improve safety," Ketch said. 

Pullen testified that the railroad is in favor of the project and that coordination between the city and the DOT is "very good" and "ongoing on a continuous basis." 

During the construction, which is projected to start in the spring of 2018 and extend into 2019, both the North Division Street Bridge and Columbus Street will be closed for a period of time, but not at the same time, Ketch said.

"There is going to be a period of time when the bridge is closed and there will be a period of time when Columbus Street is closed," Ketch said.  

Detours will be put in place during the road closures.  

Pullen said trains will still be able to use the tracks during the construction. On average, between two and four freight trains use the tracks each day, according to Pullen.   

The project will be completed at no cost to city taxpayers, with 80 percent of the project cost coming from the federal government and 20 percent from the DOT Bridge NY Initiative. 

Staff writer Natalie Brophy can be reached at (315)282-2239 or natalie.brophy@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie. 

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