Trade some of Parkway to free up state money for canal bridges

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 April 2014 at 12:00 am


File photos by Tom Rivers – The Brown Street bridge in Albion was shut down about two years ago. There isn’t a timetable for the bridge’s reopening.

Orleans County officials and many of the village and town government leaders have been making phone calls, writing letters and passing resolutions, trying to pressure state officials to better maintain bridges over the Erie Canal.

Many of the spans have reduced weight restrictions or have been closed. Only a handful can accommodate tractor trailers, fire trucks and big farm equipment. Local officials say it hurts commerce, threatens public safety and wastes time with detours.

The local leaders have been making noise about this in recent years. It doesn’t seem to be paying off in more upgraded canal bridges.

The canal bridges are low volume and costly to maintain, Bob Traver, DOT regional director, told county officials in a meeting last September. The DOT has many infrastructure needs and it directs the money to higher-volume bridges, he said.

The county should try a new approach in bringing state action to the bridges. The county should consider a trade off. Let’s offer up the north side of the Lake Ontario State Parkway. That is the two-lane recreational expressway that runs west for 12.5 miles in the county.

The Lake Ontario State Parkway is lightly traveled. It was supposed to extend from Rochester to Niagara Falls, but stops in Carlton.

The Parkway was supposed to link Rochester to Niagara Falls. It got about halfway built and ends abruptly in the town of Carlton. It strikes me as a colossal waste of money, and a big broken promise.

The Parkway is costly to the state. The DOT could simply close down the north side, and make the south side – the two lanes that currently go east – into a regular two-lane state highway with one eastbound and one westbound lane. This would save the DOT in maintenance, plowing and mowing costs.

Those savings should stay in the county and be directed towards keeping up the canal bridges. The Parkway is lightly travelled, and putting both the east- and west-bound traffic on the south side of the Parkway wouldn’t hinder the motorists at all.

I think the DOT would be more willing to listen to our pleas about the bridges if we offered a trade off, rather than just insisting on more money.