Bracing for Bay Bridge Work
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"There's a lot of traffic on that bridge,” said John Starke.
Thirty-thousand cars and trucks each day, to be exact.
"It's a lot,” said Starke, with the New York State Department of Transportation.
There will come a time this summer – several times, as a matter of fact – that much of the traffic on the Route 104 Bay Bridge will come to a halt.
"It's going to involve closing lanes. It's going to involve closing the entire bridge for some weekends,” said Barry Howard, Webster Chamber of Commerce.
What may seem as a drastic measure is necessitated by the need for bridge work.
"It's a very important bridge. We don't want to ever have to post it or close it so we really need to do this work,” Starke said.
The issue is the bridge's 45-year-old expansion joints.
"They're being replaced because they're finger joints, which are open. The new joints are expansion joints with rubber seals to keep all the saltwater off the steel,” said Starke.
Because of that, DOT plans to close the Bay Bridge four times this summer. Some work is already noticeable to drivers. Signs warn westbound drivers of bumps in the road; the two inch steel plate which covers the joint work.
"They can be a little bit of a challenge,” Howard said.
Starke said they're designed to make the trip as smooth and safe as possible.
"We didn't reduce the speed limit. We get that question a lot. The problem with that is, some people will obey it. Many won't. And that differential in speed can be very dangerous."
When the bridge does close, DOT said it will happen either in the eastbound lane or westbound lane; never both at the same time. If all goes according to plan, the first weekend the bridge will close will be the last weekend in June.
"During the weekend closures, it could have a huge inconvenience,” Howard said.
On the east side of the bridge the Webster Chamber of Commerce wants to help DOT keep people updated. It’s creating a Twitter account which will include daily updates on bridge construction and closures.
"While it's an inconvenience, the alternative was to close the bridge for a longer period of time and reduce it to one lane in each direction for a number of months, and that would have been traffic jams all the time,” said Howard.
When the Bay Bridge is closed, traffic will be detoured using Empire Boulevard and Bay Road. It could be a slow go; certainly, a change from the usual.
"We understand it's going to be an inconvenience and a headache for many. We figure the more people who know about it the more people can avoid it and the better off everybody will be,” Starke said.