A federal windfall will help Erie County finally repair a major safety hazard on Tonawanda Creek Road.
Officials from Erie County and the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council announced on Wednesday a $9.4 million grant that will be spent to stabilize and repair part of the road in Clarence, which has been closed for two years.
"While the area of Tonawanda Creek Road affected by the slide is relatively small, it is a tremendous expense and not one that Erie County could manage by itself,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “Tonawanda Creek Road is not a quick or an easy fix and will require extensive work to not only resurface the road but more importantly stabilize it to prevent further sliding."
The deteriorating road has been closed between Northfield and Westphalinger roads since 2014. Ambulances and other first responders need to take a several-mile detour to get around the short, damaged section of Tonawanda Creek.
Its closure has been an inconvenience for those who live nearby in that rural part of Clarence, and also for congregants who worship at St. Stephens United Church of Christ, which is only about 100 paces from where the huge breach begins.
The closed-off roadway provides only limited access for the eight homes located in the affected stretch of road. The continuing soil erosion eliminates the possibility of using traditional road replacement processes for repairing Tonawanda Creek road, Poloncarz said.
The county has held off on trying to repair the road because the price tag to fix it is so high.
On Wednesday, the transportation council approved funding for both Erie and Niagara counties to repair road and slope problems along Tonawanda Creek Road as part of a multi-year project. The $9.4 million will cover the design and construction costs for Tonawanda Creek Road, a process that will begin this spring.
County Legislator Edward Rath, R-Amherst, said the county can now move ahead with design and engineering work, as well as contract bidding. Construction work can begin when construction season opens in the spring, he said.
The county has already set aside about $500,000 for the project, he said.
"I think it's long overdue that this project is able to cross the finish line," Rath said. "The residents have shown tremendous patience. Now we have to focus on getting this project done as quickly as possible."