Niagara Gazette

August 24, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Traffic troubles at the bridge

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Traffic Hazards — The later it gets in the afternoon over here, the more we’re living the Eagles’ “Hotel California” — “You can check out, but you can never leave.” Had President Obama begun his tour here, Syracuse would still be waiting. Seniors sit in the Three Stooges Roundabout (under repair, for the record), tapping their apps as the Society Security deposits accumulate.

The big deal is the corduroy surface of the southbound South Bridge, also under repair, but supposedly only at night. As it is, traffic moves better when it’s closed than when it’s not.

To paraphrase another ‘70s verse, “They’re paving our bridge, and now it’s a parking lot.” Why is there never a Big Yellow Taxi when you need one?

Here’s what happens. When the crews sign off about 6 a.m., they leave the surface of the bridge leading off the Island rather bumpy — undulating, one of Doug’s favorite words, if only for the way it sounds. Mainland-bound motorists are directed to reduce speed to 45 mph.

Flustered by three speed-limit changes over the previous seven miles (65-55-65), drivers inexplicably snap to attention. The I-190 glows brake-pedal red. Mid-day traffic bounces along decently, but along about 3 p.m. volume starts to ramp up, no pun intended.

Traffic engineers preach that congestion is caused not by slow speeds, but by inconsistence, and soon southbound cars and trucks are lining up halfway “beyond Whitehaven,” which is to us as “The Big Blue Water Tower” is to Amherst. A Canadian chap we met in Niagara-on-the-Lake this week said that last Friday he was “blind-sided” by the backup and almost missed first pitch at the Bison game.

Their problem becomes our problem when Islanders, or Mainlanders who work here, head out southbound. Two tributaries feed the flow of the I-190 at the bridge, one from the parkway to Beaver Island and one down Grand Island Boulevard, the latter funneling through our Circle of Confusion.

To add insult to injury (a medical term, actually), recent science has confirmed what most of us knew from the beginning, that it’s not wide enough and that vegetation vanquishes visibility. So they’re working on it. That’s “working” as in “being paid to be there” — on one recent circuit, of seven hard hats, we saw only one attached to an actual implement. Your tax dollars at rest.

Or, to put it another way, there’s never time to do it right but there’s always time to do it over.

And you can’t even turn left into Island Prescription for a headache pill.

This, too, shall pass, probably after Labor Day. In the interim, we’re Cataract City-bound. We’re trying to see this through the eyes of the Eagles and may have some verses next week. Meantime, come visit, but unless you brought bedding, don’t stay too long.

Polly and Doug E-mail