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Falls road woes spur Council debate Backlog of needed pothole repairs made worse by weather

Bumps, cracks and potholes that have emerged on city streets in recent weeks prompted frustrated City Council members Monday to press for more long-term solutions for road repair.

"It's not just a rough ride. They're destroying your car," Councilman Charles A. Walker told city officials. "It's not just one or two streets, it's all over the city. I'm just simply saying we should be able to do more and maintain them after all these years."

A backlog of road reconstruction projects that has plagued Niagara Falls for years has resurfaced again as the late-winter freeze-thaw cycles begin and pothole patches have worn down.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster told Council members that the city is trying to tackle the condition of city roads from two ends -- more full-scale street reconstruction projects and "faster, more efficient and cheaper pothole repair."

"It's a big job; it's not going to happen overnight, but again, at least now we have a plan and we understand that this is a priority," Dyster said. "It's all about money. We can fix as many things as you can find us money to fix. We can pave as much as you can find money to pave."

The city has rented a one-man spray injection machine to quickly fill potholes this winter, but the machine has been off the road at times be
cause of cold or wet weather. Department of Public Works Director David L. Kinney said he expects his crews to be able to use the machine today through Saturday.

The city also plans to order an asphalt zipper machine this spring that will allow the city to mill and resurface small areas of road where pavement has deteriorated beyond a point where patching is effective.

Councilman Robert Anderson Jr. said he is concerned that potholes on Buffalo Avenue and on other streets pose a safety hazard to drivers and pedestrians.

"We have a major infrastructure problem that needs to be addressed yesterday," Anderson said. "And all we do is pass them on from one administration to another administration and a patch here and a patch there, and someone's going to lose their life."

The city each year allocates money to mill and repave streets, but total road reconstruction projects are much more expensive and have been done at a much slower pace.

Last year, the city allocated $1.2 million to reconstruct 77th Street.

The mayor said the city is watching federal economic stimulus proposals carefully to prioritize city road projects that might qualify for federal funds.

Dyster and Council members have said they want to increase the number of road reconstruction projects the city completes each year.

"We're behind the eight ball, and we have been there for a very long time as far as streets go," said City Administrator Donna D. Owens. "But the more we can get in regards to innovation and technology and equipment that cannot just do that temporary fix, but can do that long-term fix, the better off we'll be."

In other business Monday: The Council agreed to waive utility costs for the Board of Education's lease for Sal Maglie stadium during the months of June, July and August. City Controller Maria Brown estimated the utilities during those months would cost about $10,000.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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