NEWS STAFF REPORTER
A wider bridge atop a single pier is proposed for the place where Harlem Road crosses the Buffalo River, a design that West Seneca officials hope will reduce the severity of ice-jam flooding in nearby residential neighborhoods.
The state Department of Transportation’s draft design report, which is available to the public today, details the proposal for replacing the current bridge, which was built in 1911 and is listed in poor condition.
Three alternatives were developed for the project, whichat will stretch from Clinton Street to Mineral Springs Road – roughly a half-mile. The one recommended by the DOT carries a price tag of $12.3 million.
Arguably the most significant design feature is one pier in the waterway, as opposed to the current four. Town officials have blamed the bridge’s structure, in part, for ice-jam flooding that was particularly devastating this past winter.
“We are aware there had been flooding there in the past,” said Susan S. Surdej, a DOT spokeswoman. “We were looking for ways we could improve upon that with the new project.”
Town officials, who have many irons in the fire on flooding-related issues, welcomed the design.
“The opportunity for anything to alleviate any additional issues with flooding is an opportunity for the neighborhood to be put at ease,” Town Supervisor Sheila M. Meegan said Thursday.
The DOT report notes that the opening for water flow would be slightly larger because of the reduced number of piers. “Reducing the number of piers will minimize the risk of ice and debris jams at the structure, and hence reduce the risk of associated upstream flooding,” the report states.
Further, the single pier and its abutment will be positioned to match the direction the water flows.
“I would think it would [help] just because you wouldn’t get all the ice jammed up in there anymore,” said Matthew D. English, the town’s highway superintendent.
The roadway would be widened to three lanes in each direction, while the bridge would have five: two lanes in each direction and an extended left-turn lane for northbound traffic turning west onto Clinton Street.
The bridge has been targeted for replacement since 2006. “This was something that we were actively trying to program and to build for a long time,” acknowledged Surdej, the DOT spokeswoman.
Following January’s ice-jam flooding that damaged 70 homes in the town’s Lexington Green neighborhood, Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, urged the DOT to come up with a design that addressed that issue, and sought an expedited timeline for its construction.
He won half the battle.
Construction still is expected to begin in the fall of 2015 and take approximately 13 months to complete.
Meanwhile, a public hearing on the design is scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. June 25 in Winchester Community Church, 909 Harlem Road. A formal presentation on the project begins at 6 p.m.
Copies of the report can be reviewed at several locations, including the West Seneca Public Library, 1300 Union Road, and during business hours at the DOT office at 100 Seneca St., Buffalo.