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Mills urges Poloncarz to take Route 219 bridge off state’s hands

After reviewing a state proposal to transfer ownership of the Route 219 bridge to both Erie and Cattaraugus counties, Legislature Chairman John J. Mills is urging County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz to jump on the deal in the interest of saving the bridge from being permanently closed.

Poloncarz has argued that Erie County is not prepared to bear the significant financial burden attendant to owning the bridge, even though the adopted 2015 state budget includes $20 million for reconstruction of the span and an additional $300,000 for future maintenance costs.

“Past transfers of roads and other infrastructure in order to shed responsibility from other governments to Erie County have resulted in Erie County having more miles of roads to maintain than any other county in New York, along with 283 bridges already in our inventory,” Poloncarz said last month.

In a letter to the county executive Wednesday, Mills said he, too, had long been opposed to the transfer. However, he said, the bridge is vital for transporting motorists to Springville, Concord and surrounding areas. Local businesses heavily rely on the traffic it generates, he added.

“My concern is that the state will invoke its lawful right to close the bridge completely,” Mills said.

The Cattaraugus County Legislature earlier this year introduced a resolution opposing the proposed transfer. Poloncarz anticipated the Erie County Legislature would follow suit. The county executive said the state attempted a similar ownership transfer of the Route 219 bridge in 2011, but withdrew the proposal after Erie County officials strenuously objected.