It has been more than two years since a quarter-mile section of Tonawanda Creek Road in Clarence collapsed along the Tonawanda Creek.
The road road between Northfield and Westphalinger has not reopened since, and that has been a major headache and potential safety hazard ever since. Not only is it an inconvenience for those who live nearby in that rural part of Clarence, but also for congregants going to and from worship at St. Stephens United Church of Christ, which is only about 100 paces from where the huge breach begins.
Earlier this week, about 80 concerned residents showed up at the church with a petition containing 1,079 signatures demanding that County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz make it a priority to repair and reopen the road.
But that isn't happening.
The county does not have near enough money to pay for the repair, said Poloncarz on Thursday.
"Recent estimates say it will cost $5 million to do Tonawanda Creek Road, in order to rebuild it. We just don't have the money to do that for a quarter-mile stretch of road," he said.
The county executive was expected to announce $23.9 million in road projects with the release of his 2017 budget Friday. Tonawanda Creek Road is not listed in it as a priority project. Instead, Poloncarz said, the county will seek federal funds to help pay for that.
"We let Legislator (Edward) Rath know this. It's not just that it'll be costly to build the road. We would actually have to redesign and rebuild Tonawanda Creek. We have to change its flow. We'd have to put a new embankment in," said Poloncarz.
St. Stephens Paster Ned Holderby, who sponsored Tuesdays's forum at his church with Rath, R-Amherst, noted that the county may obtain state and federal funds if Polancarz identifies it as a project with priority status.
"Without that status, it would be very difficult, if not next to impossible, to get the amount of money that's required for the repair," Holderby said.
Holdersby noted the county managed to come up with the money to repair a similar breach in another section of Tonawanda Creek Road.
"Several years ago, on the west side of the church, on a road called Westphalinger, the road collapsed. That was down for about five or six years and took three years of concentrated effort on the church's part to get that part fixed. The other repair, which is the model for the repair that's needed, is in the $3 million range," he said.
However, Poloncarz said that prior rupture was only a few hundred feet in length.
"This one is a quarter-mile. We estimate that it would be less expensive to condemn two area homes and just move the road in 100 feet. That actually would make the most sense," the county executive said.
"The homeowners might not be happy, but the rest of the county taxpayers might be happy if they're spending less money to repair that road," he added.
Aside from the inconvenience of having to take detours to get to and from his church, Holderby said he has concerns about the safety of that road for children in the area, who he said, have been known to breach the barriers that were set up.
"It's not a pothole. It is a destructive area going almost halfway across the diameter of the road. There are barriers, but they are not linked together. You can simply walk over into the the (destroyed) area," Holderby said.
His noted that his church, the northern most one in the county, is practically on the outskirts near the Niagara County border.
"It is my sense that, for some reason, there is a ho-hum attitude toward the outlying areas of the county in terms of responses to situations like this. I'm not pointing fingers. I just believe I'm stating a fact," Holderby said.
"I would like to have this road repaired, and quickly. The last time, it was five or six years, and people have to go out of their way to get to church," he added. "People have to go around their elbows to get to their thumbs to get to the church. It's as real issue."
Rath, meanwhile, said he will try to get repair of the road prioritized in the 2017 budget.