State spending $518 million for bridges weakened by storm damage

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – State officials have identified seven Western New York bridges as most in need of repair, reinforcement, or replacement because of repeated flooding issues.

It is the first round of bridge work under a federal program to shore up bridges subject to punishment from weather-related emergencies, which includes 51 “scour-critical” bridges in all across New York state.

RELATED | See the full list of seven bridges slated for repair in WNY and the associated cost

Transportation officials are targeting 105 bridges in all, with a price tag of $518 million. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is covering 75 percent of the cost.

The plan is to bring these bridges up to new modern standards, “to strengthen them, and to upgrade them in a way that they will be able to withstand more water, higher flood waters, without risking the public,” as Carol Breen, a spokesperson in the state Department of Transportation explained.

FEMA calls it the Hazard Mitigation Grant program, and the most extensive – and expensive – of the seven Western New York projects is in the Town of Batavia. The bridge scour program calls for replacing the West Main Street bridge (Route 5), which crosses over Tonawanda Creek, at a cost of $4.3 million.

The DOT also identified the Route 20 bridge over Tonawanda Creek in Alexander, and the Route 78 bridge over East Koy Creek in the Wyoming County Town of Conewango for upgrades. Engineers plan to maintain traffic over all the bridges, during construction.

In Erie County, two bridges on Transit Road (Route 78) in the Town of Amherst are slated for improvements. The bridge crossing over Black Creek, just north of Dann Road, has an estimated cost of $1.2 million. Another bridge just south of Black Creek that spans a small stream known locally as “Hickory Creek” is tagged at $650,000.

While you might never find the name of “Hickory Creek” on a map, state engineers say, the official name of the stream that flows under Transit Road in Swormville is Gill Creek – not to be confused with Gill Creek in Niagara Falls that a city park is named after.

While the Black Creek bridge barely has a pothole, Black Creek itself has been prone to flooding, including an event the day after Christmas, last year, that wreaked havoc along Wolcott Road in the Town of Clarence.

Breen explained, “This program allows us to look at our bridges and say okay, if there was a flood, or a hurricane, or something like that again, where would our most critical bridges be, that might possibly be in danger?”

Other bridges included in the first round of the Hazard Mitigation Grant program include: the Route 39 Cattaraugus Creek bridge in Sardinia, with an estimated cost of $2 million; and the Route 62 bridge over Mud Creek in the Cattaraugus County Town of Conewango, which is also pegged at $2 million.

State officials assured drivers that these bridges are still safe to cross, and eventually, the emergency plan calls for repairing, replacing, or retrofitting 105 bridges across the state.

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