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The two Delaware Street bridges in the City of Tonawanda will close for at least a year starting next fall while one is repaired and the other is replaced.

Recent state inspections found structural problems in the bridges over Ellicott Creek and the Erie Canal. Both were built around 1930 and now have problems with corroded steel and cracking concrete.

"I'm certainly pleased that the state is moving forward with the needed improvements to these aging structures," said Assemblyman Robin L. Schimminger, D-Kenmore, who recently announced additional state funding for the projects.

"They are a major route for local motorists and commercial traffic between the Twin Cities, and, as anyone who's recently driven over them knows, both are in poor condition," he said.

The bridge over the creek will be rebuilt, while the one over the canal will be rehabilitated at about half the cost.

The historic status of the Erie Canal largely accounts for repairing rather than replacing the span crossing that waterway.

"Bridges crossing the Erie Canal are considered significant" by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation," said Dan Paskie, civil engineer with the state Department of Transportation.

The $1.05 million rehabilitation of that bridge, owned by the state DOT, will involve replacing several steel floor beams and the concrete deck -- the surface on which cars drive -- and cleaning and painting the steel that remains, Paskie said. That project will be funded entirely by the state.

About 200 feet away, the city-owned bridge over Ellicott Creek will be removed and replaced with a new bridge costing $2.15 million. Federal highway aid will cover about 80 percent of the work.

The state will contribute $305,500 for the project, reducing the amount paid by the city to about $100,000, Schimminger announced this week.

The new four-lane bridge will be slightly wider than the current one.

"It's getting pretty close to the end of its useful life," City Engineer William Price said.

The two bridges will be bid as a single project next August, and work will be done on the two simultaneously.

Officials expect the work to extend through most of the construction season in 2001.

While the bridges are closed, traffic will be rerouted from Young Street to Webster Street in North Tonawanda, Price said. Truck traffic will be rerouted to Seymour Street.

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