The state Historic Preservation Office has turned thumbs down on a proposal to build two new Erie Canal bridges here, but the state Department of Transportation is trying to muster facts to change the preservation agency's mind.
The DOT has suggested building two spans in 2001 to replace the Prospect Street Bridge, which has been closed for a decade because of irreparable deterioration.
One would carry vehicular traffic and be built from the end of Stevens Street across the canal to West High Street. The other would be on the site of the closed bridge and be used only by pedestrians and bicyclists as part of the Canal Trail.
The City of Lockport had previously endorsed the Stevens Street route for a new bridge, but likes the two-bridge plan even better because it would mean that a water main currently running along the side of the old span would not have to be relocated.
However, the Historic Preservation Office has been insisting that the new bridge look as much as possible like the old one, which uses a truss design. Its initial position was to oppose either new route, regardless of design, but yielded to the DOT's insistence that the old bridge is beyond repair.
In August, it submitted a memorandum of agreement with the DOT to endorse plans to build a new truss bridge on either the east route, which means Stevens Street, or the west route, which calls for a slight realignment of Prospect Street. The cost estimate for the east truss was $2.8 million, and for the west truss $1.95 million.
The DOT suggested that the twin-span plan would be cheaper than the east truss if it could use a multigirder design on the vehicular bridge. The narrow pedestrian bridge would use the truss style. The estimate for the pair was $2.1 million.
A letter from Historic Sites Restoration Coordinator Richard M. Lord to the DOT re-emphasized the preservation office's view that any style other than a truss "would have an adverse effect on the New York State Canal System," which is considered a very long historic site.
In August, Lord wrote, "We were able to support the (old) truss bridge's removal and the proposed new (Stevens Street) alignment because the (DOT) proposed to mitigate impacts with a new truss bridge."
But with a multigirder design for the main bridge, the preservation official wrote, "project impacts are somewhat increased, since this alternative results in two bridges on the Canal System where there has been one historically. Building a multigirder bridge with concrete parapets recalling early 20th century examples also is not recommended unless there is documentation that bridges of this design or vintage were used extensively on this section of the Canal System."
That sentence gives the DOT an opening, said design job manager Stuart A. Clees in the DOT's Buffalo office.
"We're sending proof that there are other bridges with girders nearby," Clees said.
For example, the Tri-Way Bridge at Transit, Walnut and West Genesee streets uses a girder and floor design. The Thomas C. Rotondo Jr. Bridge on the William Gregory Bypass, which replaced the Summit Street Bridge, uses a multigirder design, and it was built in 1991. Those bridges are the next crossings in either direction from the Prospect Street Bridge.
"I don't think they looked individually at the bridges," Clees said. "We're going to try to refresh their memory on that."
Historic Preservation Office spokesman Randall Sawyer said, "We're more than willing to talk to DOT."
If the interagency dispute cannot be resolved, Clees said, "it may come down to a public information meeting to see what the people want. Maybe that will have some impact on (the Historic Preservation Office)."