CONCORD, N.Y. (WIVB) - The original Route 219 is still a busy one, despite the new bypass. But now the old 219 bridge connecting Erie to Cattaraugus County is closed.
When the Route 219 extension was finished more than a year ago, taking traffic away from the old Route 219, state transportation officials planned to rehabilitate and repair the old bridge. But safety concerns led the State DOT officials to close the bridge for four to six weeks, but it could be indefinitely.
"We're really concerned, because at this point we don't know if it's going to re-open again," said Springville business owner Bill Gugino.
Gugino's concerns echo those of many of the business owners along the old Route 219. They say this is the second blow to their companies. They knew the extension would take a lot of traffic away, but now they're practically at a dead end street.
Gugino said, "We knew we were going to lose traffic no matter what when the new extension opened for the 219, but the question was: How much traffic? Now, today, we're totally blindsided with the fact that they're going to close the bridge down."
The State DOT is the aging bridge for possible rehabilitation after an analysis discovered serious concerns over the structural integrity of the bridge pier. Engineers say they could no longer guarantee the safety of the bridge.
Erie County Director of Engineering Charlie Sickler said, "I think it had something to do with frozen bearings, rusted bearings, that aren't allowing movement. And when you don't have movement when there's supposed to be movement, then it puts undo stress on other parts of the structure."
Cattaraugus County Engineer Mike Burr said, "It led to some concerns with the bridge, so they made a decision to close that so we can continue to analyze that so they know what the right repairs are."
Officials estimate over 2,500 cars use the bridge on a daily basis. The bridge spans over Cattaraugus County Creek, with Erie County on one side, and Cattaraugus County on the other. Now those cars will have to take a two-mile detour.
Grover Riefler, who owns an industrial park on the Cattaraugus County side of Route 219, is worried about his business tenants.
"Several tenants right now are hanging on by a string because of the bypass. But closing this bridge will probably take them out," said Riefler.
If the engineering study shows the old bridge can be rehabilitated, State DOT officials can set a time table to do so. If the study shows it can't be rehabilitated, the bridge would have to be replaced, which would take years - if they decide to do it at all.
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