BRASHER FALLS — It’s been just over a month since the Depot Street bridge in Helena was closed, and the frustration is continuing to mount.
“I’m hearing a lot of concerns. We’re trying to work with the county to try to rectify some of the problems. It’s really handcuffed that section of town. I feel for the people in that area,” Brasher Town Supervisor Mark A. Peets said.
The bridge was scheduled to be replaced in 2021 if funding was available. But its closure came earlier than expected last month after it was deemed unsafe during a state inspection.
“It’s a county bridge. The state red-flagged the Depot Street bridge for the county,” Mr. Peets said.
Making the travel situation worse, the St. Lawrence County Highway Department closed a portion of County Route 53, one of the access points to Helena, to replace a large culvert between the Brasher highway garage and Depot Street. The closure is scheduled to run until mid-October.
“We’ve been trying to see if the job can be done as soon as possible,” he said.
In addition, a section of County Route 55 from Meyers Road through Helena is being paved.
The situation concerned Helena Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steven Wilson Sr., who posted on social media that he was concerned about response times and delays because of the closure and construction. Some of their equipment has been moved to the former highway garage so they have coverage on both sides of the Depot Street bridge.
“We have taken steps to ensure we would have equipment and mutual aid in place but it still slows all response down,” Mr. Wilson said, urging residents to contact their elected officials to share their concerns.
‘Obviously response time is now increased by the miles of detour. There’s no easy way (to get to Helena),” Mr. Peets said. “A lot of people asked about a temporary bridge.”
But, he said, state budget cuts didn’t make that a viable solution.
“We’ve reached out to Sen. (Joseph) Griffo and Assemblyman (Billy) Jones to bring it to light,” he said.
Mr. Peets said the detour has greatly increased traffic on Quinell Road.
“We did quite a bit of work on that road. It was very liveable at the time. Now there’s probably 10 times the traffic. We did ask for a temporary speed reduction on Quinell Road. It’s getting beat up,” he said.
He said they’ve also reached out to county officials to use their paver so they can improve that road. The work would be done after the County Route 53 project is complete.
“We’ve asked for some scheduling for that so we can take care of it,” Mr. Peets said. “We ask for everyone’s patience. When we do get the paver, we’ll try to get the Quinell Road better.”
A public information meeting had been held in March to discuss the replacement of the Depot Street bridge, which could have started in May 2021 if funds were available and be wrapped up by October 2021. Preliminary work has been done to prepare for when funds become available.
Plans had been drawn up for off-site detours of approximately 24 miles, using County Route 53, County Route 38, Route 420, County Route 37, County Route 46, Route 37C and Depot Street. Officials anticipated that local traffic would use Quinell Road, Smith Road and Main Street.
The anticipated cost of the bridge replacement is $3.5 million. The project is a joint effort of the St. Lawrence County Highway Department, state Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.