BUFFALO NEWS - Effects of increase in bridge traffic discussed

By DEIDRE WILLIAMS - News Northtowns Bureau 11/22/2003

What to do about growing traffic demands on the Grand Island bridges was the focus of a meeting Friday that included presentations by representatives of the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council and Bergmann Associates, which did a traffic analysis of the bridges for the state Thruway Authority. Because of increases in cross-border traffic and international trade, more and more vehicles are using the bridges, presenting traffic problems.
On any given day, 65,000 vehicles cross the two south bridges, and about 52,000 cross the two north bridges, said Brian Dougherty of Bergmann Associates.
Engineers predict those numbers will increase on the south bridges by another 18 percent by 2010, to 77,000. By 2020, more than 90,000 drivers will use the bridges.
Officials also project that the north bridges will handle 62,000 cars daily by 2010 and 74,000 a decade later, Dougherty explained.
From mid-May to Labor Day, there are 15 to 20 percent more vehicles using the bridges, said Hal Morse, the transportation council's executive director.
"We could use a third lane on the south bridges now, and we could use a fourth by 2020," Dougherty said, adding the higher volume results from a variety of factors.
"More trips, longer trips, more households on both sides of the border, popular border crossings, the tourism trade and the casinos have caused the climb," he said. "Also, more Canadians are shopping over here because their money is worth more."
The north bridges are in good shape until 2010, but they'll need a third lane by then, Dougherty added.
The cost of replacing all four bridges and highway-related work is between $400 million and $600 million, Dougherty said.
Deputy Grand Island Supervisor Richard W. Crawford Jr., the Town Board liaison to the town's traffic safety board, said there's no question traffic has increased significantly over the last year. He thinks a transportation plan that includes traffic issues on the I-90, I-190 and I-290 needs to be addressed.
"There have been more tie-ups in the last eight months . . . on both sides of the bridges," he said. "Are the remedies extra lanes to move traffic along or moving toll plazas so there are better truck access runs on the bridges?"
Grand Island Councilwoman Mary S. Cooke will set up a similar meeting just for Grand Island officials and residents.