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Bridge Reconstruction Has Started

If you have driven over the Chautauqua Lake Bridge recently, you will see that the trucks and crews that installed a deck underneath the bridge, have been replaced by the bigger and more numerous vehicles of the prime contractor, Union Concrete.

You will also see that new semi-permanent concrete barriers have been placed to move traffic into one lane at certain locations. The beginning of the primary contract for the $78 million job of reconstructing/rehabilitating the bridge has begun.

As readers of this column know, I have advocated that a bikeway/walkway be a part of this massive project. It currently is not planned, but I have talked with many who think it would be a good idea …yet, thus far, there has not been much of an organized effort to do so.

As to what is happening now, it is clear that the primary issue to be felt by local residents is how the construction work on the bridge will affect traffic.

Recently, the contractor had a meeting with some of our local officials in the area to explain the traffic implications. It is clear that in order for the work to be done, traffic over much of the bridge will need to be one lane in each direction.

This means that motorists need to be especially careful when going onto the bridge from either the Bemus Point or Stow sides of the lake. Entering traffic must “give way” to through traffic just as the lanes are narrowing as you approach the bridge. You should be prepared to stop and yield if necessary.

The allowable speed over the bridge has also been reduced to 40 m.p.h. This is obviously needed in order to ensure worker safety on the bridge.

One issue that came up at the meeting dealt with the access of emergency vehicles to the bridge if there is an accident or injury. How can an emergency vehicle get across the bridge if the one lane is jammed with cars due to an accident of some kind? That is a good question. First responders need to have a plan in the event there is such an emergency.

Another issue which will have local impact will be what happens when all traffic is stopped going over the bridge. The construction company has been given authority to stop all traffic during night hours when major construction activities (like pouring concrete) require it.

That means that all traffic then, including semi-trucks, will be rerouted via Route 394 and Route 430 through the Village of Mayville. If you live on those roads or are using them, you will see a substantial increase in traffic during those times. You need to be ready for that.

As I have written before, we are fortunate that the federal and state governments are stepping up to fix the bridge. We couldn’t afford to do it on our own.

On the other hand, we at the local level, have the right and obligation to ask that the bridge be “all that it is capable of being.”

Which brings us back to having a bikeway/walkway attached to it, so that local residents and visitors can move back and forth between Bemus and Stow along with the highway traffic. It has been done on other Interstate highway bridges … so it could be done here. We just have to push and organize to make it happen.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.

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