Work on repairing a leaky pipe that had flooded Route 5 in Lackawanna was completed at about 8 a.m. Thursday, but the lane restrictions caused a two-mile-long backup during the morning rush hour.
And now two government agencies are saying the other had the authority to reopen the road.
Erie County Water Authority crews worked Wednesday and overnight into Thursday to a repair a leak that had caused the formation of a mini-lake in the middle of the state highway. It took the Water Authority some time to diagnose the problem, which kept the arterial closed Wednesday after the Blizzard of ’14 had blown blinding snow across it for nearly two days.
Then Lackawanna police announced Wednesday evening that two lanes of traffic were open. But many motorists, emerging from being stuck in homes because of the blizzard, just caught the news that the road was open, not that the six-lane section was down to one lane in each direction.
Thousands of vehicles drove down the road like usual Thursday morning but had to merge from three lanes to one between Lake Avenue and Ridge Road. And that caused a two-mile backup during the morning commute, while others poured onto South Park Avenue.
A Water Authority spokesman said the authority completed its work at approximately 8 a.m. Thursday and that the state Department of Transportation stayed on the site to do the final road clearing and cleanup.
But the DOT said it was not up to the state agency to reopen the road.
“Everything was under the jurisdiction of the Erie County Water Authority,” DOT spokeswoman Susan Surdej said. “We really did not have anything to do with it.”
She said that the Water Authority had a DOT permit to perform the work and that the traffic cones marking the lane restriction were erected by a Water Authority vendor.
“It was open at 8:45,” she said.