State officials outlined plans Wednesday for a new Harlem Road bridge spanning the Buffalo River and other improvements, including wider shoulders to accommodate bicyclists, between Clinton Street in Cheektowaga and Mineral Springs Road in West Seneca.
Several dozen people gathered in a nearby West Seneca church for an open house and public hearing held by the state Department of Transportation, which finally is moving forward with a project that dates back to 2006.
The poor condition of the more than 100-year-old span has put it on the state’s list of deficient bridges. While the DOT is considering a couple of possibilities, Wednesday’s presentation focused on a roughly $12 million preferred alternative to build a new bridge slightly west of the existing structure.
Plans also call for extended and additional turning lanes.
“At this time, our plans for this project are still preliminary,” said Nick Kinderman, the design project manager.
But the feature that captured the attention of some West Seneca residents is the bridge’s single-pier design. The current structure has four piers in the Buffalo River.
“We anticipate the reduction in these piers would help increase the flow under the bridge,” said Nick Gagliardo, the design engineer.
Ice-jam flooding this past winter damaged 70 homes in the town’s Lexington Green neighborhood. Local officials are continuing a multipronged approach to help the victims and reduce the likelihood of future flooding; a new bridge design was requested.
“That’s nice. I love it,” Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said earlier Wednesday evening, as she examined depictions of the current and new bridges. “I’m sure people are going to be happy with that.”
During the public hearing, a Lexington Green resident said her neighbors prefer the single-pier design. But the project’s timeline, which has construction starting in the fall of 2015 and finishing in late 2016, has her worried about getting through two more winters with the old bridge in place and the new one under construction.
South Buffalo resident Joe Zedick doesn’t see the new bridge design as the solution to the seasonal flooding he has witnessed throughout his life.
“If they say that’s going to help the flooding, that’s giving false security to people,” he said Wednesday night.
Zedick believes that West Seneca and the City of Buffalo should have been working together all along to regularly dredge and break the ice on flood-prone waterways.
Work will be done this summer in and along Buffalo Creek, which flows through Lexington Green before merging with Cayuga Creek near Harlem Road to form the Buffalo River.
Meegan said she learned Wednesday that the state Department of Environmental Conservation has approved the permit for the town to begin that work.
“It will be clean as a whistle come September,” Meegan said. “We’re positive that the end result will put our residents at ease this upcoming winter.”