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#1 Sep-06-2007 06:20:am


Construction Makes Travel Difficult

Construction Makes Travel Difficult

By Sharon Turano

A Maze In Salamanca

The West State Street bridge is closed in Salamanca. P-J photo by Sharon Turano

9/6/2007 - sturnano@post-journal.com

SALAMANCA — No matter which way you turn, it’s hard to get around parts of Salamanca these days.

The Center Street Bridge has joined the West State Street Bridge as being in need of repair, making a trek into town a bit more difficult.

The Center Street Bridge has been reduced to one lane of traffic, and the weight limit on it has been reduced to 15 tons. Tractor trailers and other large vehicles will not be allowed to drive on the bridge. School buses and emergency vehicles under the 15-ton limit can use the structure, however, according to a news release issued Monday by Mayor Jeffrey L. Pond Sr.’s office.

Front Avenue, which runs onto Center Street, is closed to everyone except local residents from Fern Avenue to Center Street and from Center Street to R.C. Hoag Drive, as it would empty traffic onto the site of the bridge.

‘‘The Center Street Bridge had several (11) red flag conditions on it,’’ said Ray Wilson, Salamanca public works director, about the results of a recent state Department of Transportation inspection of the bridge. Pond said the state gave the city six weeks to determine what work to do on the bridge. One of the flags, Wilson said, was then changed to a ‘‘prompt interim action,’’ by the state due to structural damage on the bridge’s west side.

‘‘It’s a critical area,’’ Wilson said state officials told him about the northwest corner of the bridge that has roughly 80 percent of the beams rusted through, he said.

‘‘We had to take action within 24 hours,’’ Wilson said about what occurred after the red flag to prompt action change. State and city officials worked on a temporary solution, cribbing or putting up supports, reducing the traffic and instituting the weight limits.

This week, Wilson said, engineers will determine a load rating for the bridge, built in 1939, before a permanent decision is made on how to proceed to fix the bridge.

Pond knows what he’d like done. He said the city will push for the state to replace the bridge.

‘‘This bridge needs to be put up on the front of the list,’’ he said, adding replacement has been discussed since the 1990s. Pond said another bridge elsewhere is always in need of repair and gets done first.

Although the bridge is city-owned, Pond said, it is the city’s position that it is not responsible for bridges on the Seneca Nation of Indians’ reservations, on which most of the city is built. The city, Pond said, does do general maintenance on the bridge, but said, the state repaired the Main Street bridge in the city and planned to replace the Center Street Bridge.

Why then, he questioned, wouldn’t it take care of repairs for the red-flagged issues.

‘‘It’s still our position we’re not responsible for bridges on the reservation other than general maintenance,’’ said Pond. He alluded to the other DOT work done on the reservation and said, ‘‘this is a bridge also that is New York state’s.’’

What to do with the Center Street Bridge, said Susan Surdeij, spokeswoman for the state DOT, will be the city’s decision, as, she said, that is who owns the structure.

‘‘It’s a cooperative effort,’’ she said, adding state officials realize local municipalities don’t always have resources available for such work. She said it will be up to the city to identify a long-term plan for the bridge, but, she said, ‘‘the state will work cooperatively with the city and Seneca Nation.’’

‘‘We are pleased to see that the NYS Department of Transportation, Cattaraugus County and the city of Salamanca are working cooperatively to repair the Center Street bridge and to ensure that the bridge remains open to traffic as the repairs proceed,’’ said Maurice A. John Sr., Seneca Nation of Indians president.

‘‘This bridge is along a major route of traffic between the Nation’s Cattaraugus and Allegany territories. It is vital to connecting the two territories, as well as the Allegany Territory community on both sides of the river,’’ he said.

John said the federal government has allocated funding to the state DOT to replace the bridge in June 2011.

‘‘NYSDOT officials have been very clear that this issue is entirely about safety,’’ he said.

‘‘It has nothing to do with the ongoing dialogue between the state and the Seneca Nation relating to the Southern Tier Expressway. The Seneca Nation remains ready, willing and able to facilitate the state’s repair and replacement process,’’ he said.

Although Pond said the state and city have not yet met to resolve the bridge’s future, he voiced concern about the bridge being the second in need of repair at the same end of town.

The West State Street bridge was also flagged by the state DOT and was shut down in December 2005.

The DOT’s Ms. Surdej said that bridge is scheduled for work in 2011. It is designed and could be advanced, she said. Before that can happen, however, she said an agreement is needed with the Seneca Nation of Indians that spells out who is responsible for the bridge. That makes things ‘‘complicated,’’ she said, adding real estate and easement discussions could be part of such an agreement. Ms. Surdej said the state and Nation are working to resolve the issues.

In the meantime, residents trying to drive from one end of the city to the other are having more difficulty doing so, and, it could get worse if the two bridges are replaced at the same time. That would mean those driving to some city stores may be able to get goods elsewhere quicker.

If the two bridges are closed for repair at the same time, said Wilson, residents living at one end of town will have to take ‘‘the scenic route’’ around the city just for a gallon of milk.

‘‘That would be quite a detour,’’ he said.


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