The painting of the South Grand Island bridges, which has taken five years and involved three contractors, is in its final stages.
"The work on the South Grand Island Bridges is nearly complete; it will be finished by the end of the year," said Casey Cannistriac, a spokeswoman for the State Thruway Authority.
The job, which involved lead abatement and repainting, began in 1999 under a $9 million contract with Textar Painting Corp., of Upper Darby, Pa. Early in the work, a Textar employee jumped from a bridge pier to a wooden platform, which broke; he fell 28 feet to his death.
Cannistriac said the authority wasn't satisfied with Textar's work and hired Keystone Co. of New York City in 2001. Buts as in the Textar case, the contract with Keystone was terminated because it didn't meet the authority's standards.
The current contractor, Erie Interstate Maintenance Contractors, a Western New York firm, began the work in 2002.
"The Erie Interstate crews have been working two shifts per day, seven days a week since 2002, and the authority couldn't be more pleased with their work thus far," Cannistriac said.
The total project cost has increased to $15 million, but Cannistriac said the bonding company is footing the bill for the difference of $6 million. Similar work was done on the North Grand Island Bridges in 1998.
Grand Island officials said the news of the forthcoming completion is long overdue and much appreciated.
"I'm so pleased that it's finally getting finished," Councilwoman Mary S. Cooke said. "It was fraught with terrible tragedy, including a death on the job. Two entire construction seasons were lost when those firms stopped working and the current one couldn't start until the next construction season; it put brakes on the project."
Aside from the drab gray coverings on the bridges during much of the work, Supervisor Peter A. McMahon said residents weren't bothered or inconvenienced by the project. He added that the bridges were reduced to one lane at night during lighter traffic periods.
"I never got a call from a resident wanting to know what was going on or indicating that there was a problem," he said. "From a traffic standpoint, there weren't many problems."