By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
Progress is on schedule on the $8 million bridge replacement project of the Beaver Island Parkway bridge over the Thruway at Exit 18B, according to a Thruway spokesman.
But commuters aren’t always on schedule, due to detours around the bridge project that can cause traffic backups at peak drive times. One such bottleneck is at Staley and Stony Point roads, as a detour directs motorists down Stony Point to Love or East River roads and toward points south on Grand Island.
Add to that the tourist traffic, at its height this summer, and you have a sometimes frustrating situation, albeit with a satisfying final chapter of an improved, safe bridge as the promised result.
The project, begun in March, is due to be completed by the end of the year according to the Thruway contract with Union Concrete and Construction Corp. of West Seneca.
Jonathan Dougherty of the Thruway Authority confirmed the old bridge has been completely removed and the next phase of rebuilding is underway.
“Crews have actually started building and forming the new, what we call, ‘abutments,’ ” he said. “Those are the new concrete pillars that will hold the new bridge. So, you’ll start to see those … that’s the next step in the process, before they’re forming the bridge, ahead of the steel installation.
“It’s still on schedule for the end of the year,” which he said fulfills the contract. At one point, it was speculated there could be a possibility of a completion as early as this fall, but the Thruway Authority has always maintained the target date was dependent on many variables, including the weather.
“There’s a lot of factors – weather, obviously in Buffalo and Grand Island – but the contract is the end of year,” Dougherty said.
“I know it’s an inconvenience, but it’s going to be for a short period of time. We just ask drivers’ patience. We’re reinvesting our toll dollars back in the system to improve and really enhance our infrastructure. Once this bridge is open, it’s going to enhance travel in that area.”
He said the old bridge, built in 1954, had carried 13,000 vehicles per day over the I-190.
“Once this new bridge opens, it’s going to be a safer bridge and a more reliable bridge for those vehicles for many years to come,” Dougherty said.
The new bridge is designed to have wider traffic lanes, emergency shoulders, a new guide rail, new riding surface, and increased vertical clearance – going to 16 feet, 9 inches, from the previous 14 feet, 2 inches.
The bridge, which was identified by the Thruway Authority this year as not up to code, originally was targeted for replacement in 2024. The timetable was moved up to 2023, based on the state’s engineering assessments.
At the start of the project, Grand Island Supervisor John Whitney praised the investment into the town’s infrastructure, saying the bridge replacement “will directly benefit the motorists visiting attractions on Grand Island such as Beaver Island State Park; the businesses that use our roads and bridges for economic activity; and our residents, who rely on this bridge for their daily commutes and visiting friends and family.”
He noted the current inconvenience caused by the construction and detour is offset by the fact that the work will provide service for many years to come.