Niagara Gazette

March 9, 2013

LETTERS FROM THE ISLAND: Bridge backups on the horizon

By Doug and Polly Smith
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Dear Lucky Mainlanders — Over here, sequestration looms. Sequestration as in, isolation. Late next weekend they start “fixing” the bridges again, and for all the Thruway Authority’s efforts to keep it a secret, the hints have been everywhere.

• Directional arrows face south on the northbound South Bridge.

• Barriers poise at I-190 entrances.

• The forbidden crossover just north of the South Bridge grew pavement, almost overnight.

• Detour signs suggest that the best route from Sandy Beach to Beaver Island veers through Canada.

• Department of Transportation trucks lurk suspiciously at interchanges.

• And some time next Sunday night — that is, St. Patrick’s Night — they’ll close the southbound South Bridge, and even with the time change (that’s tonight, remember) we go dark for an unspecified duration.

It’s been two years since they repaved the northbound South Bridge (that’s the one to the Tonawandas), a tortuous task which involved dropping massive concrete forms into holes on the span in the dead of night. Occasionally the shot rolled around the rim and out, backing traffic across paradise ‘til late afternoon. Fantasy Island suffered. Stress-management clinics boomed.

As we write, Thursday afternoon, not a word has been heard from the Thruway Authority, which treats us like the kid in O. Henry’s “Ransom of Red Chief,” in that they kidnapped us and now consider us a nuisance. But from various sources ranging from toll-takers to office-holders, we’ve learned that:

• Beginning next Sunday at about 8 p.m., the southbound bridge will close, supposedly to re-open around 6 the following morning.

• That means all southbound traffic will need to cross over to the northbound bridge, where the new arrows will guide two-way traffic.

• The southeast area of the Island, where most of us live, will be closed off because the parkway’s junction with the I-190 south there is too close to the crossover to allow for an easy merge. Even under normal conditions, it’s a nightmare.

• For the most part, weekend traffic will roll day and night without impediments.

• This work is less complicated — no more three-point shots from outer space — so overnight disruptions seem less likely.

• Speaking of nightmares, we’ve no idea when this one will be over.

We’d say the greatest inconvenience will befall Niagara County folks heading for Buffalo and the lower Tonawandas. ‘salright, you Mainlanders’ River Road is a lovely drive, although, for the most part, it’ll be dark.

Come visit. Just plan on early dismissal.

BUMP IN THE ROAD: Last week’s letter about the Oscars attracted a sharply critical response from a couple in Niagara Falls, they said. It runs about 250 words. We’ll be glad to forward a copy to anyone interested.

Polly and DougE-mail