Southtowns commuters and other regular users of the Skyway are going to find themselves rerouted beginning April 30 to accommodate a $29 million deck rehabilitation of the bridge.
The project is going to require the state Department of Transportation to detour traffic for two construction seasons.
During the upcoming construction season, the inbound Skyway will be closed to traffic, while the outbound lanes will accommodate traffic to and from the Southtowns at different times of day.
"So, for the morning commuters from the Southtowns, inbound traffic will be running on those outbound Skyway lanes," said Susan Surdej, public information officer for the state DOT, during an informational meeting held Wednesday at the Gateway Building in Blasdell.
"There's only going to be one direction of traffic traveling on the Skyway for the next two construction seasons. So in the morning, it will accommodate the inbound travelers on the outbound lanes, and in the afternoons and evenings, the outbound lanes that are available will accommodate the outbound traffic from the city," Surdej said.
Inbound traffic headed to the I-190 between 5 and 11 a.m., Monday through Friday, will exit at Church Street and will access the I-190 headed north or south from the Church Street entrance ramps. Inbound traffic headed to Seneca Street will be detoured via Church Street to Pearl Street and then to Seneca Street.
Outbound traffic from the city will be directed to the I-190 southbound entrance ramp at Church Street and exit at the Louisiana Street ramp, and then proceed along Louisiana to Ohio Street on to Fuhrmann Boulevard and back on to Route 5, headed west, via Tifft Street.
From noon to 3 a.m. Monday through Thursday, and Friday noon to 3 a.m. Monday, outbound traffic will be directed towards the two open outbound lanes of the Skyway. The southbound ramp from the I-190 to the Skyway will remain open. Traffic from the Southtowns headed into the city will be diverted to Ohio Street, proceeding to Louisiana Street to South Park Avenue to Hamburg Street, and then to the I-190 northbound to the Church Street exit.
Inbound traffic headed towards the I-190 South will be diverted to Ohio Street, then proceed to Louisiana Street to the enter that section of the Thruway. Inbound traffic headed towards the I-190 North will also be diverted to Ohio Street, then directed to Louisiana to South Park and Hamburg Street to enter the ramp to the northbound I-190. Traffic from the Outer Harbor will be directed to follow the detour via Ohio Street to Church Street.
Only outbound Skyway traffic will be accommodated on the weekends, so the direction of traffic on the span will not be changed at those times.
"In talking to organizers of different events in downtown Buffalo, everybody going to an event downtown, they tend to come in at different times. They stream into events, but when the event is over, everybody leaves at the same time," Surdej said, explaining the DOT decision.
Last summer, the agency held a similar forum at the Gateway Building to solicit commuters' input on how traffic should be re-routed during the rehabilitation project.
Jim Lehmann, of Hamburg, a retired science teacher in the City of Tonawanda schools, still uses the Skyway regularly to travel into the city for downtown events in Canalside and elsewhere.
Lehmann, who showed up for the informational meeting Wednesday, said he anticipated an initial resistance to the DOT's plan from commuters who, he said, will likely quickly adjust.
"It looks like (DOT has) done a lot of planning. Whenever they've done other jobs, I'd come in and I was skeptical, but this doesn't look as bad as it could be. The main problem is the detour down on Louisiana Street over towards Hamburg. I imagine they'll be a little real rough spots there in the beginning, because of the congestion. Then, after a few days or a few weeks, they'll be looking for alternate routes like Ohio Street or something like that," Lehmann said.
Linda Stephens, a North Buffalo resident who attended the meeting, liked the plan and expressed her appreciation for plans to rehabilitate the bridge.
"I use the Skyway often enough, especially in the summertime, to get to my cottage in the Southtowns. I think (the Skyway) is very elegant. The view is fantastic. It's free to anyone in a vehicle and I don't think that, other than in an airplane or a helicopter, you can quite get that panorama. It's a lovely gateway. I think it should be saved, and whatever it takes to save it, I'm for it," Stephens said.
"I did suggest, perhaps, an aquamarine color next time they save it," she said.
Work will be suspended and all ramps will be open to traffic on the bridge during the winter months, tentatively set from Nov. 15 to March 15.
The bridge rehab includes some minor steel repairs and concrete repairs.
"This will give us, at least, another 20 years on the Skyway, and then whatever the final outcome of any Skyway studies produce, so be it, but this is necessary maintenance," Surdej said.