The days of Lake Erie turning Route 5 into an ice rink during winter storms are numbered in Athol Springs. But the project to fix the problem won't be finished before this winter.
Plans call for a new seawall across from St. Francis High School to protect the main thoroughfare for more than 40,000 Southtowns motorists. On Friday, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer announced the federal government will pay the whole $4 million bill.
"This new barrier wall will shield drivers during even the most treacherous conditions," Schumer said.
The new wall, however, won't be done in time for this year's lake-effect storm season. Given the timeline outlined by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers when it announced the project last year, it's possible construction could happen in 2019, although the Corps has not confirmed that.
Schumer said the Corps of Engineers included the funding in its 2018 Supplemental funding allocation. Initially, New York State was to cover 35 percent of the project, but now the federal funding should cover the entire project cost, Schumer said.
The Corps of Engineers already finished design work for the proposed project.
The wall will include a roughly quarter-mile long revetment — a pile of large boulders placed in front of the wall.
Those boulders could be up to three feet in diameter and would be designed to absorb the energy from Lake Erie's waves during storms. It would start about 40 feet into the lake.
Designs call for a double-layer of the boulders to be placed atop smaller stones ranging from about 6 inches to a foot in diameter.
The proposed revetment would extend from Hoak's restaurant to residences in the 4100 block of Route 5.
There will also be a 15-foot splash apron and a concrete shoreline walkway for pedestrians built into the project.
The existing seawall is 92 years old and has been crumbling from storm waves and higher lake levels.
What's more, when the lake waters strike the wall, they often are ejected up and onto nearby Route 5, creating a hazard for drivers. At times, Hamburg Police have closed the heavily-traveled road for safety's sake.
Schumer visited the area in July 2017 to call for the federal government to expedite funding for the project.
"Route 5 is a vital link between Buffalo and the Southtowns, but due to the quickly deteriorating condition of the existing barrier wall along Lake Erie, drivers are endangered whenever waves come crashing over the wall onto Route 5," Schumer said Friday.
He added: "I applaud the Corps of Engineers for prioritizing this crucial project," he said.