Workers are back on Erie Boulevard for the second year of the traffic-clogging project, and they have good news: Work should be done 10 weeks early.
The $14 million project was slated to be completed by the end of November. Contractor Rifenburg Construction now expects to finish by mid-September.
While the job mainly involves rebuilding Erie Boulevard, with new lights, better intersections, a pedestrian-friendly median and sidewalks, the first job on this year’s list is an old cellar. They must fill in the coal cellar of Bangkok Bistro, which lies under the sidewalk, to support a hydrant and streetlight.
“And we are going to put a parking lane in there,” said Senior Civil Engineer John O’Sullivan, who is overseeing the project for the city. “Collapse wasn’t a major issue — it’s been there all this time — but it’s so we get full support with the light pole and the hydrant.”
There are many coal cellars in the area, but O’Sullivan said this one was likely used for deliveries. It has not been used for many years.
After that work is done, sidewalk installers will cross the street and put in new concrete along the opposite side of Erie Boulevard, heading toward Interstate 890. Traffic will be rerouted again in that area, shifting over one lane to make room for the workers.
“We’re hoping we can complete that job by June, July, August,” O’Sullivan said.
Then they will begin the final phase: paving the reconstructed street from I-890 to Union Street. Rifenburg Construction has estimated that work could be done by mid-September, O’Sullivan said.
“The contractor’s pretty aggressive. They’re not lazy folks. They get in and get it done,” he said.
Weather remains the biggest challenge. “As long as we have good weather, things will go well,” O’Sullivan said. “We don’t need a week of rain.”
He added that the rough pavement that was put down before the winter stood up well through the cold months. But workers had to re-stripe in January when the paint wore off.
Striping is essential in the area because the lanes have shifted to accommodate construction. Even with the striping, it is sometimes difficult to tell where the lanes are near the interchange.
O’Sullivan said the rough road made it easy to wear away the paint.
“It’s just the grit, it’s like sandpaper,” he said. “You’ve got to keep the striping so people know where to go.”
Workers put up a flashing arrow for part of the winter to make the traffic pattern easier to follow. That sign now has been removed.