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Work to start this fall on bridges

Some Thruway projects have been put on the shelf, but work soon will begin on a major overhaul of the South Grand Island Bridges, a heavily traveled link to Niagara Falls.

The two-year, $48 million project will rebuild the concrete underpinnings of the twin spans and replace the bearings that support their steel trusses.

This fall, crews will erect platforms for the substructure repair to start next year. That portion of the job won't affect traffic, officials said.

In 2010, the surface of the northbound bridge will be replaced for the first time since it was built in 1962, officials said.

"The concrete patching looks almost like a quilt," said Thomas Pericak, director of the Thruway's Buffalo Division.

When the deck work begins in 2010, workers will tear out a section of deck each night on the northbound span and replace it with a precast concrete panel, lifted into place by cranes, Pericak said.

This will allow the work to be done entirely at night, permitting all lanes to remain open in the day and throughout weekends, he said.

"For residents over there, there's one way on [the island] and one way off," Pericak said of the Thruway bridges.

Traffic delays could stretch to an hour or more if the bridge remained closed during the day, said Mary Cooke, a Grand Island Town Board member who participated in an advisory board for the Thruway project.

"In the 1980s, they closed the bridge down and repaired it," she said.

Built in 1935 and 1962, the southern pair of bridges spanning the Niagara River on the Niagara Thruway carry an average of 78,130 cars and trucks a day, according to an estimate last year.

Thruway engineers outlined the bridge overhaul project last week at a meeting of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

Transportation experts described replacing the deck in panels as new to the area.

"This could be a common technique, but having the work done at night and having [the bridge] open in the morning, that's new," said Timothy Trabold, principal transportation analyst at the regional transportation council.

The construction schedule calls for the erection of an access platform to begin this fall. Substructure work on the northbound span will begin next year, followed in 2010 by the replacement of its deck, plus substructure work on the southbound bridge.

A cross-over will divert northbound traffic to a single lane of the southbound bridge while the northbound bridge's deck is replaced.

The American Bridge Co. of Pittsburgh is scheduled to complete the entire project by November 2010. The bridge sidewalk, and the bike path leading to it, will remain open during the project, Pericak said.

The North Grand Island Bridges are scheduled for overhaul sometime after 2011.


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