Two construction projects at major highway interchanges in Erie and Niagara counties will cause delays and headaches for motorists and require many drivers to use local streets for detours -- until the construction season ends in November.
A $16.5 million reconstruction of access ramps in the Town of Tonawanda and an $8.2 million ramp replacement in Niagara Falls are being done by Oakgrove Construction of Elma, under contract with the state Transportation Department.
In Erie County, ramps connecting the Youngmann Memorial Highway (Interstate 290) with the Niagara Thruway (Interstate 190) in the Town of Tonawanda will be widened. Limited traffic will be maintained on most of the routes during the work.
In Niagara County, ramps connecting the LaSalle Expressway with the Niagara Expressway in Niagara Falls will be closed during the construction, and traffic will be detoured over city streets.
The Niagara Expressway is an extension of the Niagara Thruway between the North Grand Island Bridges and the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge to Canada. The expressway and the Thruway both bear the same route number -- I-190.
Lane closures at the Youngmann-Thruway interchange began at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Closures at the LaSalle Expressway-Niagara Expressway interchange will begin at 6 a.m. Thursday.
In the Town of Tonawanda, the Youngmann westbound ramps to the Thruway are being reduced from two lanes to one during the construction.
Susan Surdej, regional spokeswoman for the state Transportation Department, said that work would require two construction seasons and is scheduled for completion in December 2011, but the lane closures that began Tuesday will be removed at the end of this construction season in November and reactivated next spring.
Surdej said the new ramp from the westbound Youngmann to the southbound Thruway will have wider travel lanes and shoulders to deal with what has been a problem area for truck turnovers.
"You're actually going to have a little more room to maneuver," she said.
The traffic lanes will be expanded to 13 feet wide from 12 feet. The right shoulders will be changed to 10 feet from 3 feet. The left shoulders will be increased to 4 feet from 3.
In addition, the Thruway southbound ramp to the eastbound Youngmann will be reduced to one lane from two beginning today. Also, a short connector ramp from Sheridan Drive (Route 324) to access the northbound Thruway will be closed today. Detours along local streets will be posted.
In Niagara County, these ramps will be closed at 6 a.m. Thursday, and detours will be posted:
LaSalle Expressway westbound ramp to the Niagara Expressway or Niagara Thruway southbound. Westbound traffic on the LaSalle Expressway will be directed to exit northbound onto I-190 and then to exit onto Niagara Falls Boulevard (Route 62). Traffic then will turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto Niagara Falls Boulevard and follow the detour signs to I-190 southbound.
I-190 southbound ramp to the LaSalle Expressway eastbound. Southbound traffic on I-190 will be directed to exit onto Buffalo Avenue. Traffic then will turn left at the bottom of the ramp onto Buffalo Avenue and follow the detour signs to the LaSalle Expressway eastbound.
Buffalo Avenue to I-190 northbound. Traffic from Buffalo Avenue will be directed to follow the LaSalle Expressway eastbound and then to exit at 77th Street. Traffic then will turn left at the bottom of the ramp on 77th Street, then enter the LaSalle Expressway westbound and proceed to I-190 northbound.
The Transportation Department advised motorists to use alternate routes to avoid these detours and to obey the speed limits along the detour routes.
News Niagara Reporter Denise Jewell Gee contributed to this report.