Plans to turn the Scajaquada Expressway into a boulevard remain under discussion, but it turns out the aging Elmwood Avenue bridge that crosses it needs more immediate attention.
The bridge, located near SUNY Buffalo State, opened in 1960.
The state Department of Transportation wants to replace it with a more decorative bridge. A $7.9 million proposal also calls for an expanded sidewalk on the western side of the bridge for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Work would begin next spring, and the state expects the new bridge could be completed in late 2016.
The proposal for the 279-foot-long steel multi-girder bridge will be the subject of a public meeting at 4 p.m. today in Buffalo State’s Bulger Communication Center. It is the only scheduled public meeting for the new bridge project.
The new bridge is expected to resemble the nearby Grant Street bridge, also built in 1960 but reconstructed in 2004 with a more decorative facade.
“Recent inspection reports indicate there are bridge deficiencies, which include corrosion on over 50 percent of the steel surface, section loss at various girder ends, leaking bridge joints that would result in deterioration of concrete piers, and a failed paint system, which allows for steel corrosion,” said David Christopher, the department’s regional design engineer.
The bridge extends over the Scajaquada Expressway, or Route 198, Scajaquada Creek and a sliver of Delaware Park. It borders the college, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Buffalo History Museum and McKinley High School.
Nearly 30,000 cars pass over the bridge daily, according to August 2012 statistics by the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council.
The span would remain open during construction, but access would be reduced to one lane in each direction at all times. The ramp from westbound Route 198 to northbound Elmwood would be closed at some point, as would the ramp from Elmwood southbound to Route 198 eastbound, with detours posted.
Design approval from transportation officials would occur by the end of July, with construction bids going out next February and work beginning next spring. Construction would last around 1ø years, according to the Department of Transportation’s tentative schedule.
A new bridge comes as welcome news to Jaime Spiesz, who recently walked across the bridge. “You can feel it shaking when the trucks go over,” Spiesz said.
Bike rider Jeremy Toth said he welcomed a widened sidewalk.
“There are no bike lanes, so that would be helpful,” Toth said. He also said he hoped the new bridge would be in harmony with whatever happens to the 3.3-mile Scajaquada Expressway.
“However they are going to redesign this bridge, I hope they’re keeping in mind the efforts to pacify the 198 through Delaware Park. That project is key to this whole area,” Toth said.
Aesthetic treatments to the bridge would include replacement railings and stone pattern concrete piers and abutments. Street enhancements would also include improving the intersection of Elmwood and Nottingham Terrace, and reconstructing Elmwood between Iroquis Drive and Nottingham.