Niagara Gazette

March 30, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: First order of suit: Daytime bridge work

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Mainland Travelers — It’s going to be a nightmare, literally, Monday for most motorists using — or trying to use — the South Bridge to and across Grand Island.

Thanks to a class-action lawsuit, traffic-snarling bridgework will be done during the daytime, but only on certain days, of which Monday will be the first.

The State Thruway Authority thought it had this repaving thing all smoothed over. Last Sunday it started closing the southbound South Bridge — the one off the Island into the Tonawandas — for repairs, but only at night.

At 8 p.m. or thereabouts, barriers are placed restricting Islanders’ access to the bridge. About 6 in the morning, they’re removed. Following night, up again.

Supposedly, that keeps the bridges clearest during rush-hour traffic.

But the closure was mysteriously postponed a week, then another week. The Authority blamed the first on a lack of readiness and the second on the weather, but it turns out these were just cover stories.

Actually, the Authority was trying to negotiate with activist group NITEOWL (Never Ignore The Efforts Of We Late-Shifters), which advocates equal rights for people working unconventional hours. NITEOWL has now obtained a restraining order forcing the Authority to do at least some of the work during the daytime.

NITEOWL leader Dawn Shirley Light called it a breakthrough for those who eschew the 9-to-5 lifestyle. While she said her own profession is “none of anybody’s business but my clients,” Doug believes he did see her in the employee’s lot at Tiffany’s on in Tonawanda, as he was just driving past, of course, taking shortcut to the bridge.

“The needs of late-shift workers are never considered” in highway closures, she said. “Everything’s done for the convenience of those boring old nerds who work days. Why, it’s been a struggle for us even to win the right to marry.”

Representing NITEOWL was traffic attorney Reed Ikulous (best known for his ads: “Hurt on a Bus? Call Reed Ikulous, 999-9999”). He pleaded that in any road closures, “the constitutionally-guaranteed right to work nights is overlooked,” and that late-shifters suffer “emotional pain and suffering” from being stuck in traffic at the expense of day-shifters.

Judge Brad Lee Dunn ruled in NITEOWL’s favor, but only proportionately. “Inasmuch as night-shifters comprise about 15 per cent of the population, I think it’s fair to open the bridge for them 15 percent of the time, which would be one day out of seven,” he said.

Monday’s will be the first day-shift closure, with one-way traffic on the bridge from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m., much to the dismay of Dyngus Day celebrants coming to and from Stan’s Polish Nook. Pleas for a “pussy-willow pass” were doused.

Other daytime closures will be announced “usually the day before,” the judge ruled.

He urged travelers to check their calendars — beginning with Monday’s date.

Come visit. Monday even. No foolin.’

Polly and Doug E-mail