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August 2014 Column - Cooperation between county, towns helps repair roads


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oneilj - Posted on 18 August 2014

It is no secret that the county road system was in sorry shape even before the harsh winter of 2014. Some people I talk with blame the Red and Green Budget mess of 2005 with its Draconian cuts to the county Department of Public Works. Others say it has always been that way even before 2005. Regardless, it was obvious to everyone this spring that something had to be done. That is why my colleagues and I in the County Legislature voted to appropriate an additional $5 million of the county’s fund balance, our rainy day account, to help repair the county road system because it was not just raining; it was pouring.

This additional $5 million is a good start, but it will not be the entire solution for one simple reason: Fixing roads is expensive. A case in point is Brighton Road in the Town of Tonawanda. Although the entire road is in need of repair, we are only doing a complete reconstruction on the section from Niagara Falls Boulevard to Fries Road. This will include curbs, drainage, replacement of two traffic signals and some sidewalk work, in addition to the pavement. The price tag is $2.65 million. That’s right. The cost of doing it right for this half-mile or so of county roadway is a whopping $2.65 million. It should also be noted that this work is being done by a private contractor who submitted the low bid for the project. Once finished, the reconstructed section of Brighton should last for a couple of decades. The problem is that we will still have to address the rest of Brighton and hundreds of miles of other county roads in various stages of disrepair. All is not lost, however, as several town highway departments have been more than willing to cooperate with the county to make all roads in our community better.

Last month, I arranged meetings between county DPW representatives and officials from both the towns of Tonawanda and Grand Island. In both cases, creative solutions were discussed for improving roads within each town. Last year, the Town of Tonawanda highway superintendent saved the county tens of thousands of dollars by loaning us his milling machine and paver to resurface sections of Colvin Boulevard and Highland Parkway with materials provided by the county. These roads would not have been done otherwise. This is the sort of cooperation that should be encouraged. For this reason, I insisted a portion of the $5 million we added for the roads be available for similar joint ventures. As a result, we are now talking about possibly replicating last year’s success by accepting the town’s help on other streets. Prime candidates would be the balance of Brighton Road and sections of Eggert Road. There is much to do, and winter will be here before we know it. But through continued cooperation, I am convinced that we will get the job done.

If you have thoughts you would like to share, I would love to hear from you. I can be contacted by phone at 858-8672 or via email at kevin.hardwick@erie.gov.