Route 66 Ghent bridge reopens ahead of County Fair

GHENT—The bridge over the Kline Kill creek in the hamlet of Ghent opened Friday morning, August 23 after a brief ceremony led by state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez and local elected officials.

The official announcement of the reopening came in a release from Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, which noted the $1.4-million project to rehabilitate the bridge would ease travel and enhance safety along the busy roadway. Traffic will increase when the Columbia County Fair opens Wednesday August 28. The Governor said the project was completed ahead of schedule to ensure the bridge would be ready for the fair, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. The fair runs through Labor Day.

At the podium on the rehabilitated Route 66 bridge in Ghent August 23 was state Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez and local elected officials. Also attending were (starting 4th from l) state Assemblymember Didi Barrett, Ghent Town Supervisor Michael Benvenuto and Columbia County Fair Manager Angelo Nero. Photo contributed

“The rehabilitated Route 66 bridge will improve mobility for the local community and fuel more economic development for the surrounding region,” Governor Cuomo said in the release. “Accessibility is key to the success of events like the Columbia County Fair and for regional vendors who rely on a robust visitor turnout, which is why we have made transportation upgrades a top priority throughout the state.”

The bridge deck, concrete approach slabs, bearings and bridge rails were completely replaced. There were also minor steel and substructure repairs utilizing 100% American steel. The enhancements modernized the structure and provided a smoother riding surface.

The old bridge often had large potholes that seemed to reappear as quickly as they were repaired.

For the approximately two-month period the bridge was closed, traffic was detoured on county Route 9, with local directed onto the extremely narrow and winding residential Slate Hill Road.

Commissioner Dominguez said in the release that “completion of the Route 66 Bridge Project ensures that a vital access route to the fairgrounds will be open and ready for the start of festivities, and that fairgoers can spend more time enjoying all the activities that the fair has to offer instead of navigating time-consuming detours.”

In 2017, Governor Cuomo awarded $5 million to county and youth fairs across the state through the 2017 Agricultural Fairgrounds Infrastructure Improvement Program. The funding was divided equally among the State’s 52 eligible local fairs, with each receiving an award of $96,153 to offset the cost of improvements and renovation projects, including new construction, that support New York’s agricultural industry. The Columbia County Fair replaced its aging poultry building and improved handicap accessibility and energy efficiency to its administration building with the state grant funds.

Senator Daphne Jordan (R-43rd) said in the release that the opening of the bridge “is great news for families who will soon be attending the fair” adding that the project “marks another important, long-term, significant investment that will enhance our infrastructure.”

Assemblymember Didi Barrett (D-106th) said, “The reopened Route 66 bridge will enable residents and tourists to travel safely and efficiently across the county. With the Columbia County Fair right around the corner, families from all over the Hudson Valley will be able to enjoy this beloved summer tradition without a lengthy detour. Many thanks to DOT for completing this project in a timely fashion.” She said she would to work to secure investment in local infrastructure.

Ghent Town Supervisor Michael Benvenuto said, “I know that residents who live along the detour have endured a major increase in traffic, and a few local businesses have had to endure the bridge closing, but we are very pleased now that this project has been completed as promised. The bridge, which was last refurbished approximately four decades ago, will now be ready for Fair traffic and for school to restart. I would like to thank NYSDOT, in particular Dean VanAlstyne for maintaining communication, and to the contractor for completing as planned.”

Also attending were Village of Chatham Mayor John Howe and Columbia County Fair Manager Angelo Nero, who encouraged local residents and their families attend the fair.

As she was leaving the ceremony DOT Commissioner Dominguez stopped and got out of her car. She cast a last look at what had been a construction site until the last cones were removed Friday morning. She smiled. “It’s a beautiful bridge,” she said.

The press release contained a reminder to motorists that fines are doubled for speeding in work zones and convictions of two or more speeding violations in a work zone could result in the suspension of an individual’s driver’s license.

For up-to-date travel information, call 511, visit the 511 website here, or download the free 511NY app.

For more information about the Columbia County Fair, visit: www.columbiafair.com/

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