After more than a dozen years of effort by county officials, the aging bridge over the Tonawanda Creek at South Lyon Street may finally get replaced, perhaps sooner rather than later.
The project has been approved for a $498,400 federal grant.
Yesterday, the Public Service Committee recommended approval of a resolution authorizing the county to spend an additional $124,600 from the county's 1-percent share of sales tax and beginning the design phase of the project.
Highway Superintendent Tim Hens said under current terms of the grant, administered by the state, construction can't begin until 2023 but the county will push to accelerate the project.
"We are going to design it as quickly as we can and then we're going to press to have it funded in advance of (October 2022)," Hens said. "It depends on what money is available at state level and in the region. If projects get delayed or something comes in under budget, well, there is a possibility there might be money lying around that we could jump on."
Hens said he first submitted the project for Federal funding in 2006. The funds were awarded in 2007 but then the recession of 2008 meant a cut in spending. He resubmitted it in 2011 but Federal authorities determined that as a single-lane bridge, it didn't warrant saving.
"We argued that the traffic counts are higher than you think they are," Hens said. "We had the city, our city, the DPW, help us out on traffic counts. We had the traffic counts of around 2,500 cars a day at the peak."
The bridge is an important link for traffic between the bridges at Oak Street and at River Street, Hens said.
In 2014, there were more cuts at the Federal level and it was pulled off the docket again. Hens resubmitted the project in 2017 and was denied funding.
The plan is now, with a grant awarded, to start the design phase immediately, because, Hens said, once money is spent on the project it is less likely to suffer another cut in spending.
"It's posted for five tons now," Hens said. "It's been in pretty rough shape. To make it go another three years might be pushing the limits from an engineering standpoint. It might get to the point where the posting drops enough where you can't get a car over it and it's closed."
The current bridge is Army surplus and was set in place in 1982 and a temporary fix for the old bridge it replaced.
The hope is to design a two-lane bridge. That's tough because the abutment of the current bridge is right under the pavement of South Main Street. Hens said the plan is also to design another truss bridge so that the character of the current bridge is maintained.