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A public hearing in May will determine which of two proposed routes for a new Prospect Street Bridge will be used.

"It's basically what the community wants," said Gabriel Delvecchio, regional design engineer for the state Department of Transportation. "We'll build either one."

But a meeting Wednesday in City Hall made it clear that the city's preference remains the so-called east alternative, which would actually build a Stevens Street Bridge.

The new $2.8 million span would cross the Erie Canal due east from the end of Stevens Street and create a four-way intersection at the current connection of State Road and West High Street.

The other option, the west alternative, would cross the canal about 150 feet west of the current bridge, which was closed in December 1991 as unsafe. It would realign Prospect Street, removing what the DOT regards as a dangerous curve leading to the old bridge.

The price tag would be $1.9 million.

Assistant Regional Design Engineer Joseph Polchlopek said, "If we don't hear anything against it at the public hearing, we'll build the east alternative."

Mayor Thomas C. Sullivan said he expects that objections would "absolutely" come from High Street residents.

County Legislator Gerald R. DeFlippo, R-Lockport, said he thinks Stevens Street residents would not mind the Stevens Street Bridge. "When I campaigned on Stevens Street (last fall)," he said, "those people weren't complaining about a new bridge -- they wanted it."

DeFlippo said residents hate the current traffic jams around the Unit No. 1 Federal Credit Union at Stevens and Prospect, especially on Thursdays, when Delphi Harrison Thermal Systems employees are paid.

The city agreed in 1993 to take ownership of the new bridge once it is done, and be responsible for maintenance and repairs.

The exact date for the City Hall hearing has not yet been set. Polchlopek said the design report will be made available for public review 30 days before the hearing.

After the hearing, the results will be considered, and a final design will be drafted and reviewed by the DOT. Delvecchio said that may take nearly 18 months, meaning that contractors would not bid on the job until fall 2001. The bridge is expected to take about a year to build.

Polchlopek credited DeFlippo with getting the project moving faster by writing a letter to the DOT last fall.

DeFlippo and Alderman Patrick W. Schrader, D-4th Ward, said the new bridge will take some of the traffic pressure off such streets as West Avenue and South Transit Street.

Sullivan said the two most accident-prone intersections in the city are West Avenue and Prospect, and South Transit and Summit streets. "This bridge would take traffic off both of them," he said.

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