There’s just six more weeks of traffic jams before the Erie Boulevard work pauses for the winter.
Workers are pouring sidewalks now. By the end of November, they plan to put down a layer of asphalt on the gravel sub-base that was recently placed on the west-side lanes of the street. Then they’ll add a binder and reopen the entire road for the winter.
Traffic has been very slow, especially during rush hour, because the busy four-lane road has been reduced to two lanes. It’s unsafe to drive on the gravel sub-base, so those lanes have been closed.
Businesses are still open, though owners say they’ve seen a drop-off in customers as people struggle to find parking amid the construction.
The delays have pushed traffic into the nearby neighborhoods, with some reports of drivers blocking intersections and even going down one-way streets the wrong way in the Stockade.
In the spring, drivers can look forward to experiencing it all again as the other side of the road is rebuilt. Work will start in March or April, depending on weather.
Once the east side of the road is done, workers will build the raised median on the last block of Erie Boulevard, near the interchange for I-890. The entire road will also be given its final layer of asphalt, above the binder layer that will be in place this winter.
The project is scheduled to be complete by fall.
So far, everything is on track, city Engineer Chris Wallin said. There have been no major delays, though workers did hit one surprising difficulty when they had to remove a piece of cast-iron pipe.
They replaced the old water lines under the road so that water main breaks wouldn’t force them to cut through the brand new road. But that meant removing a portion of the old pipe to make room for the new one.
The old pipe turned out to be made of 2-inch-thick cast iron. Cutting through it wasn’t easy.
“It was extremely hard,” Wallin said. “The workers were surprised. Two inches thick. They don’t make them that way anymore.”
One other potential delay has been avoided so far.
The street runs over the filled-in Erie Canal, so the construction project could have uncovered archeological items of interest.
“Luckily we haven’t had any historical discoveries so far,” Wallin said. “That can really slow down a project.”
The rain hasn’t been a problem, though it could delay the next layer of asphalt if it keeps raining, Wallin said.
But so far, so good.
“Things are still on schedule,” he said. “The weather hasn’t hurt anything.”
$14 million project
The $14 million project, mainly funded through state and federal grants, is designed to create a more beautiful entrance to the city. The city had to put in a 5 percent match for the project, which had enormous start-up costs. Of the $14 million price tag, $11 million will cover the construction, with the rest used for planning and design.
There will be a tree-lined median — which was the source of much debate as business owners argued over the right way to beautify the street without reducing driver and pedestrian access to businesses across the boulevard from them.
There will also be new water pipes, electrical hook-ups, pavement and sidewalks. Bike lanes will be added in an effort to make the wide, busy road more pedestrian-friendly.
Intersections will also be improved in response to frequent complaints from pedestrians who tried to cross the street but encountered cars making a right-on-red through the crosswalks.
Metroplex Development Authority is maintaining a website with weekly updates on the construction at www.FixErieNow.com.
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