Funding approved for bridge construction

The Depot Street bridge in Helena has been closed since August. Funding for its reconstruction has been approved. Christopher Lenney/Watertown Daily Times

CANTON — The construction process can soon begin on the Depot Street bridge in Helena after the St. Lawrence County Board of Legislators on Monday night approved a resolution moving forward plans to fund the project.

The board voted unanimously via voice vote to authorize the county to enter into agreements toward funding a portion of reconstructing the bridge, which has been closed since the beginning of August.

The county, with help from the state, was able to secure federal funding to cover 80% of the bridge replacement.

“(County Highway Superintendent) Don M. Chambers has put a great effort forward trying to bring the visibility and importance of getting that bridge replaced and we’re very thankful and appreciative that the money is coming our way on that,” Legislator Tony J. Arquiett, D-Helena, told the board. “It looks like sometime late in 2021 we’ll have a new bridge in Helena.”

The bridge closed on Aug. 3 after it was red-flagged by the state during inspection.

Coupled with closures due to paving projects and culvert replacements on County Routes 55 and 53, the hamlet of Helena had been largely cut off for several months.

While those projects are now finished, for many weeks the only way into and out of Helena was County Route 21.

Mr. Chambers said he hopes to put out a request for bids in December and for the board to vote to approve a plan before the end of the month.

The closure caused headaches for travelers and prompted the Helena Volunteer Fire Department to station some equipment on the other side of the bridge in order to minimize response times.

Mr. Arquiett also said businesses around the bridge have been severely impacted with traffic avoiding the area.

The bridge had been a concern prior to its closure as well. It was originally slated to be closed in May 2021 for replacement, but the state closure pre-empted those plans.

Mr. Chambers did not provide an estimate on the projected cost of the project when he was asked at the meeting.

The resolution passed Monday noted the county would cover any additional funds needed to replace the bridge if it runs over budget.

The fastest detour around the closure will continue to be using Quinell Road, Smith Road and Main Street, adding about 10 minutes to a drive through the hamlet.

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