By JILL BRYCE Gazette Reporter
COLONIE - The fate of the tiny Karner blue butterfly will
be a factor when crews begin replacing a Route 155 bridge this
Even the butterfly's flight patterns have been taken into consideration
in the design of the new $2 million bridge in the Albany Pine
Bush, which will span the CSX tracks.
From May 15 to Aug. 15, no work will take place within the
wetlands adjacent to the roadway, or within a 10-foot buffer
area around the wetlands. This is the flying period of the adult
Karner blue butterfly, a federal endangered species that lives
in the preserve.
Richard Carlson, DOT's planning and project manager, said all
work on the new bridge was designed to have a minimal effect
on adjacent wetlands. "This is in the heart of the Pine Bush.
It raises unique sensitive problems we have to address. One
thing we did is a preliminary investigation of the environmental
issues," said Carlson. He said DOT officials worked with the
Albany Pine Preserve Commission, the state Department of Environmental
Conservation and CSX Transportation in the design phase.
The state-protected preserve spans the towns of Guilderland
and Colonie, and the city of Albany.
Other measures are being taken to protect the preserve during
construction: only native Pine Bush soil will be used on the
project. Invasive plant species within the highway right-of-way
will be removed to improve the natural habitat for the Karner
Other plants will be protected. A special seed mix taken from
native Pine Bush plants will be used to replant the area. Special
ground preparation work will be done, and the contractor will
be required to dispose of waste material properly.
DOT also plans to restore a previously disturbed area near
Apollo Drive to its natural state by seeding it with native
grasses and blue lupine wildflowers, a plant required for survival
by the Karner blue butterfly.
Preserve signs will also be installed on Route 155 and Washington
Avenue Extension to welcome motorists to the preserve.
No large costs are associated with the additional environmental
measures being taken, said Carlson, though no breakdown was
Chris Hawver, executive director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve
Commission, said the state is working around the flight time
of the butterfly. He said that while this will stop construction
in one area near the wetlands, it will not delay the project.
The additional environmental safeguards by the state could
generate criticism among some people, said Hawver, though adding
that most people recognize the importance of the butterfly and
of the Pine Bush. "People realize this is not just a place for
a blue butterfly, but a place to hike and bike," said Hawver.
The Route 155 bridge was built in the mid-1960s. Approximately
25,000 motorists use the 100-foot bridge each day.
When it was inspected last year, the bridge was given a condition
rating of 3.9 (out of 7), which indicates major structural repair
DOT decided instead to construct a replacement bridge just
east of the existing bridge; during construction the existing
bridge will continue to accommodate traffic.
Impacts to traffic flow are expected in late summer, when the
existing roadway approaches are tied into the new bridge. The
road will be closed for one weekend to complete this phase and
DOT will provide information at least two weeks prior to closure.
The project is expected to be complete by November.
The contract for the $2 million project was awarded to Harrison
And Burrowes Bridge Contractors of Glenmont.