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NORTH TONAWANDA – After more than two years, repair work on Durkee Bridge, from Main Street to Tonawanda Island, is expected to be complete by the end of September, with both lanes open to the public by Labor Day.

City Engineer Dale W. Marshall told the Common Council in a work session Tuesday that, despite the good news, original plans were to complete the repairs in a year. He also outlined a number of cost overruns that raised the price tag for the $2.2 million project to $2.68 million.

Originally, the project had 80 percent U.S. Transportation Incentive Program, or TIP, funding, and the state covered 25 percent of the city’s share. Marshall said officials were able to lobby for an additional $160,000 in federal funding after they learned the severity of problems confronting the 50-year-old bridge.

“The extra monies we have received have kept us in the black on this project, and there should be reserves left,” Marshall said.

Marshall said the project continued into a second summer because the bridge deterioration was twice as bad as originally believed.

“The damage to our bridge was lack of maintenance. If there are cracks and the pavement is not maintained, you don’t have that cover and salts and waters can get through and destroy the steel and rebar,” he said.

“You don’t really see the extent of the damage until you peel back that asphalt layer.”

Marshall said the project was extended to include the addition of bridge plates after the state Department of Transportation warned the city Department of Public Works that there were problems.

“If we get a red flag, that bridge could be closed,” said Marshall. “We’re not going to ignore that.”

He said the additional work meant an increase of $173,000 to the cost of the project.

Marshall said that the work to the span will prevent much salt-laden leakage and that, with better maintenance of the road, there will be a reduction in wear and tear.

The Council will be asked to approve the change orders when it meets next week.

In other business, the Council heard a presentation from Somerset Supervisor Daniel M. Engert, leader of the Niagara County Health Consortium that is conducting a feasibility study on easing the cost of health insurance.

The consortium was formed by town supervisors to pool employees for health insurance savings, Engert said. In particular, it will help smaller towns with fewer employees that faced annual increases in premiums of 18 percent. He said the county has joined the consortium, which is reaching out to include North Tonawanda and the county’s other cities.

The Council will be asked to vote on a resolution to participate in the consortium’s feasibility study when it meets next week.

email: nfischer@buffnews.com