BUFFALO, NY - That annual rite of spring, construction season, is underway in Western New York.
There are literally hundreds of local road repair projects on tap for this year, ranging from a few thousand dollars to tens of millions of dollars in cost.
The New York State Department of Transportation even has an interactive map which the public can access to keep abreast on its multitude of projects.
When asked what might pose the biggest headache to commuters within the confines of the Queen City this season, Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown's spokesman, Michael DeGeorge, didn't hesitate to mention the complete reconstruction of a busy section of Elmwood Avenue between Forest Avenue and Route 198.
Rebuilding that section of Elmwood, which includes the Albright Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo State College, will begin in May, according to Degeorge, and involve the reduction of traffic to one lane in each direction for about a year.
Meanwhile, one of the biggest road construction projects being conducted by Erie County this season is already underway, and involves the complete overhaul of three intersections on Maple Road near the University at Buffalo's North Campus.
"They're on Maple Road at Flint, North Forest, and Hopkins Road...and this will have some effect on UB," said Charles Sickler, Erie County Director of Engineering.
Sickler says the $3 million undertaking involves not only a complete repaving, but other improvements such as turning lanes and energy efficient traffic signals.
"It's to improve the congestion there and actually reduces pollution because vehicles will be able to get through that intersection better and safer," Sickler explained. "But it's always tough to improve things without some minor inconvenience to the public."
"We're going to be very busy this season," said Thomas Pericak, Buffalo Division Director of the New York State Thruway Authority, noting that 30% of the monies due to be expended on Thruway capital projects this year are being spent in Western New York.
"Hopefully commuters won't notice much because we do most of our work during the night or at off peak hours, but there will be lots of work being done on the free section (near Buffalo) as well as the Niagara Section (I-190) this year."
If motorists are unaware that construction season has begun, they (or at least those who travel the I-190) soon will be.
The first of three consecutive weekend total road closures on I-190 begin Friday April 13, 2012 at 7:00 p.m. to Monday April 16, 2012 at 6:00 a.m.
All northbound traffic will be detoured off the Niagara Expressway (I-190) at Exit 9 (Peace Bridge, Porter Avenue). Motorists looking to return to northbound I-190 should follow the posted detour route and re-enter I-190 beyond the work zone at Ontario Street, according to a Thruway Authority press release, which also notes that Tandem Trucks will not be allowed northbound beyond Exit 9 (Peace Bridge).
The construction project includes rehabilitating existing pavement on both the northbound and southbound sections of I-190. In addition to road repairs the contractor will replace overhead signage, complete shoulder and ramp repair work, and clean and seal pavement joints.
The project's other two weekend closures, weather permitting, are scheduled for:
• Friday, April 20, to Monday, April 23, northbound from Vulcan Street (Exit 14) to Sheridan Drive (Exit 15);
• Friday, April 27, to Monday, April 30, southbound from Sheridan Drive (Exit 15) to Ontario Street (Exit 14).
Pericak says this season the Thruway is particularly eager to finish one of the region's biggest projects in recent years, the repaving of the stretch between Hamburg and Silver Creek, which has been three years and $91 million in the making.
He also notes that while the warm of stretch of weather the region experienced in March might have helped crews get a jump start on some planned maintenance, cleaning, and excavation, it only went so far in helping them get far ahead of schedule.
"As far as the actual paving work and construction work, you still have to wait for the asphalt plants to open up. Even though had a couple weeks of good weather, they did not open for the season....so to do the major work you have to wait for those plants to open up," Pericak said.
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