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STATE ELIMINATES TWO-SPAN PROPOSAL FOR REPLACING PROSPECT STREET BRIDGE

Only one new Prospect Street bridge will be built after all.

Stuart A. Clees, design job manager in the state Department of Transportation's Buffalo office, said the state was "dropping the dual-bridge alternative," which would have involved two replacement bridges. One, duplicating the now-closed span, would carry pedestrian and bicycle traffic as part of the planned Erie Canal Trail; the other, to the east, would carry motor vehicle traffic.

The state Office of Historic Preservation objected to the plan, which the Transportation Department had concocted in an attempt to mollify preservationists' objections to changing the location of the bridge. The two remaining options for the new bridge, the west and east alternatives, would require realigning the intersection of Prospect and Stevens streets.

The east alternative, the city's favorite, actually would produce a Stevens Street bridge, running directly across the canal from the end of Stevens Street into the intersection of State Road and West High Street on the opposite bank.

The west alternative would require only a slight realignment and would be closer to the current bridge.

Clees said the Transportation Department will spend a couple of months reviewing the draft design report, embodying only the east and west single-span alternatives, before calling a public meeting in Lockport to gather comments. Those will be incorporated in a final design plan, to be followed by detailed design work.

By summer 2001, the state should be ready to seek contractors' bids for the job, Clees said. City officials are to be briefed on the project Wednesday at a City Hall meeting.

Despite several meetings, Clees said the Transportation Department failed to persuade officials of the Historic Preservation Office to permit construction of two bridges.

"I guess it finally sank in with us that the two bridges in place of one was something they couldn't live with," Clees said.

Allen James, a spokesman for the Office of Historic Preservation, confirmed that conclusion, saying, "That, in our opinion, would be an adverse effect."

In letters, Historic Preservation Office officials had insisted they could support only rebuilding the current bridge, which the Transportation Department says is too rotted and narrow for modern traffic.

The office agreed to a new bridge at a new location as long as, like the 1910 bridge it would replace, it incorporated a truss design. To maintain the look of the canal, which is listed as a historic site for its entire length, preservation officials wanted the new bridge to look at much like the old one as possible.

The Transportation Department had wanted to use a less expensive multigirder style.

Under the two-bridge proposal, which would have cost an estimated $2.1 million, the motor vehicle bridge would have been based on a multigirder design, while the pedestrian bridge at the original site would have been a truss.

The Transportation Department estimates a single truss bridge for all traffic would cost $1.95 million at the west site and $2.8 million at the east, or Stevens Street, site.

The new bridge will involve relocating a 20-inch city water main that runs across the old bridge where a sidewalk would be on the new one.

Alan R. Rutter, the city's engineering director, said the city had favored the two-bridge plan, which would not have required moving the water main.

But Clees said the state will pay for a new main on the new bridge.

Rutter explained that the state would cover the cost because the work involves a relocation, not an improvement. If the new main were considered a improvement, the city would have to pay for it.

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