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Thruway bridge over Beaver Island Parkway reopens on Grand Island


Thu, May 23rd 2024 05:55 pm

By Karen Carr Keefe

Senior Contributing Writer

Motorists on Grand Island can shout, “Hurray!” The New York State Thruway bridge over Beaver Island Parkway is finally open.

Thursday was the “red letter” day when the barricades were gone and it was clear sailing – er, driving – over a route that has been closed for reconstruction for over a year.

Thruway Public Information Officer Jessica Mazurowski confirmed the reopening, but so did the presence of motorists going where no motorist has gone since March 2023.

Even this writer’s GPS was shocked, having just heard the soothing voice of Google Maps assuring the route chosen from Buffalo “avoided a road closure.”

This week, there were fewer and fewer construction vehicles parked on the reconstructed roadway – until there were none.

And the free flow of traffic began.

“They wanted to open it before Memorial Day weekend,” Mazurowski said of the Thruway Authority.

The stated target date for completion was May 24.

Coincidentally, Beaver Island State Park starts charging its entrance fee this weekend, too. A park employee confirmed that the $7 entrance fee will be charged at the gate starting Saturday. The park is open from dawn to dusk.

When asked if she’s happy to learn the overpass has reopened, the park staffer said, “I’m ecstatic!”

The holiday weekend is regarded as the unofficial start of the summer season, when picnics and swimming draw crowds to the park.

This year begins a new policy where there's free access to the site for veterans, their spouse or children, with proper ID.

Since the Dispatch last updated the progress of the bridge construction, the contractor poured the concrete bridge deck – the crucial step that weather and supply issues had delayed for months.

Originally, the overpass was supposed to open by the end of 2023.

The concrete pouring “requires temperatures to remain more consistent to obtain the highest quality final project,” Mazurowski said in mid-March.

The $8 million project began in March 2023 under an NYS Thruway contract with Union Concrete and Construction Corp. of West Seneca.

A detour has been in effect that takes motorists along Staley and Stony Point roads to their various destinations on the south end of the Island. Other drivers could exit later, at Staley, Whitehaven or Long Road exits.

The old bridge, built in 1954, had carried 13,000 vehicles per day over the I-190. The new bridge was designed to have wider traffic lanes, emergency shoulders, a new guide rail, new riding surface and increased vertical clearance.

Town of Grand Island Supervisor Peter Marston said, "We're very excited to have the overpass finally open. This is a major artery for both residents and tourists alike. I'm thankful this is done prior to tourist season.”

That overpass is essentially "at our front door," he added, “I'm excited to see our ‘gateway’ open.”

State response

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s team said the bridge was replaced as part of an $8.3 million project that included increased vertical clearance, wider travel lanes and new riding surface.

“The replacement of the Beaver Island Parkway Bridge is one of many infrastructure investments in Western New York to upgrade our transportation system and provide safe and reliable roads and bridges for decades to come,” Hochul said. “These projects are an investment not only on the roadway, but in communities, improving the way of life for residents and improving the travel experience for thousands of motorists.”

Thruway Authority Executive Director Frank G. Hoare said, “The Beaver Island Parkway Bridge serves as a vital link connecting Grand Island to nearby cities and attractions in the Buffalo-Niagara Region, including Niagara Falls and the nearby Beaver Island State Park. The Thruway Authority is dedicated to investing in infrastructure projects to upgrade aging infrastructure and modernizing our transportation system. We truly appreciate the patience of motorists and local residents during this crucial infrastructure project."

New York State Parks Commissioner Pro Tempore Randy Simons said, "Beaver Island State Park is visited by 300,000 people every year for a broad range of outdoor recreational pursuits. I am grateful to the Thruway Authority to upgrade the Beaver Island Parkway Bridge and improve access to this popular destination as we head into the peak summer season."

The new Beaver Island Parkway Bridge features wider travel lanes and emergency shoulders, increasing vertical clearance on I-190 from 14 feet, 2 inches, to 16 feet, 9 inches; plus, a new guiderail, new concrete riding surface and new line striping.

Congressman Tim Kennedy said, “During my tenure as chair of the State Senate Transportation Committee, I made the reconstruction of the Beaver Island Parkway Bridge a priority. The previous 70-year-old bridge was past its useful life and an eyesore. As families travel this Memorial Day weekend to Beaver Island State Park, they can know they are traveling on a safe bridge that is up to the latest safety standards. Thank you to the skilled construction personnel who worked on this project and brought it to fruition.”

New York State Sen. Sean Ryan said, "With Memorial Day weekend around the corner, I am pleased to see the new bridge opening before the start of the busy summer season. The replacement of the old, deteriorating bridge means safer commutes for both Grand Island residents and the many visitors coming to the island to enjoy the warm weather and some of our region's best parks and recreational opportunities."

Assemblyman Angelo Morinello said, “I’d like to thank the NYS Thruway Authority and Gov. Hochul for their attention to this matter. The Beaver Island Parkway Bridge was long-overdue for an upgrade. With the wider lanes, new guiderails, and fresh concrete surface, residents and visitors will be much safer crossing the bridge.”

Union Concrete and Construction Corp. of West Seneca was awarded the project after a competitive bidding process. The project began in March 2023.

Currently, there are more than $126.1 million in capital improvement projects underway within the Thruway Authority’s Buffalo maintenance division, which runs from I-90 from Ontario County to the Pennsylvania border, as well as the Niagara Thruway (I-190) from the thruway mainline to Niagara Falls. Over the next five years, the Thruway Authority’s capital program is projected to invest more than $420.1 million into the Western New York Region.

For up-to-date travel information and real-time traffic cameras, motorists can download the Thruway Authority's mobile app, which is available on iPhone and Android devices.

Travelers can also visit the Thruway Authority's interactive Traveler Map for real-time traffic updates and sign up for TRANSalerts for traffic information.

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