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What you need to know for 10/19/2017

On Erie Boulevard, 'the worst is over'

On Erie Boulevard, 'the worst is over'

Major projects — including around Rexford Bridge — enter final phases

Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy said the worst is over, and it appears he's right.

While construction along Erie Boulevard has made driving through that area miserable for much of 2017, work now is down to the quarter-mile or so between Union and Nott streets, and by mid-November, it is expected to be done.

"I'm not going to give you an exact date, but yes, the worst is over, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel," McCarthy said Tuesday afternoon. "Within a short period of time, we're going to have the lights, curbs and an island to give it that boulevard effect. We will have a great corridor that will match what is coming in on the other side of Erie Boulevard from (I-890). It's going to look great."

Meanwhile, over at the Rexford Bridge and Route 146, the roundabout on the Schenectady side of the Mohawk River is complete, with traffic running smoothly through it. On the northern side, there were still delays as of Tuesday afternoon, but Department of Transportation spokesman Bryan Viggiani expects that work to be complete soon.

"This week we are paving the northern end of the approach — basically from the bridge to Riverview Road and that area," he said. "Roundabout paving and striping was completed on Saturday, earlier than expected. Next, we'll begin pier demolition via machinery of the old bridge's piers. That should begin this week if the weather permits. All of the steel beams from the old bridge have been removed onto barges and are being off-loaded to haul away via trucks."

Work on Erie Boulevard, the original path of the Erie Canal, began in April.

"We are moving into phase 3 of the project," City Engineer Chris Wallin said. "Phase 1 was the sidewalk along Grossman's. Phase 2 was the west side along Boulevard Bowl, and phase 3 is now the median. It's going to be landscaped with fencing down the middle, and it will be heavily planted. It's a smaller median than what we have at the other end of Erie Boulevard, but it's just a narrower corridor. Once this project is complete, it's going to be a huge asset for the city of Schenectady. Linking downtown to Mohawk Harbor will be transformative."

While planting may have to wait until the spring, Wallin is hoping to get that aspect finished by later this month.

"Planting might be the only exception; we're talking to our landscape architect and our vendors now to see what we can do, but everything else should be done by mid-November," he said. "We are also going to have lights under the Erie Boulevard bridges. The sidewalks will be as wide as we can make them, and the lights will be similar to those on the Union Street and Liberty Street bridges."

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At the Rexford Bridge, worked began in the spring of 2016 and was scheduled to be done by this December. That timetable looks pretty good, and according to Skip Smith, who runs Smith's Automotive at 2867 Aqueduct Road, next to the roundabout, the wait was well worth it.

"I think it looks good. I think the traffic moves incredibly well, and I think it's been a wonderful project," said Smith, whose family has run the business at the same location — the northwest segment of the roundabout — since the 1950s. "We've waited a long time, but I think they've done a great job."

The new bridge replaces the structure that was built in 1965.

"They still have to do a little work — a little cleaning up in front of my place — and they also have to do some grading work on the area in back between my building and the river," Smith said. "There's about 50 feet of space there that's a little dug up down by the river because they put in a big drainage pond. But I would say they're pretty close, and the construction workers have done a great job. It's been exciting to watch it all."

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