Site preparation work will begin this fall on a long-awaited project that will ultimately result in the replacement of the Washington Street bridge, a 45-year-old structure that has been steadily deteriorating.
Susan Surdej, state Department of Transportation public information officer, said the project will be put out for bids in July. Bids will be opened 45 days later, she said, and work will begin this fall - likely by September - to prepare the bridge for demolition.
''The bridge's demolition won't be anything dramatic,'' Surdej said. ''The bridge spans the Chadakoin River and train tracks owned by the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad, and we have to be careful so the river isn't harmed and so the rail company has access to its tracks.''
Ms. Surdej said the method used to demolish the bridge would be ''methodical.''
''This bridge won't be so much demolished as it will be disassembled,'' she said. ''Essentially, the contractor will put large nets up under the bridge, chip away the concrete and expose the steel girders, then have the girders removed by crane. The details are left up to the individual contractor, but it will be a very methodical, piecemeal process.''
Ms. Surdej said state DOT officials are moving ahead with eminent domain procedures to acquire two parcels of land beneath the bridge. The state DOT already owns the land directly beneath the bridge, but Ms. Surdej said the DOT needed additional land.
''Basically, we widened the stretch of land that we own down there,'' she said. ''We did take more land to either side of what we already own in order to provide us with the access we'll need to build the bridge. And, of course, we'll need future access to inspect the bridge. Something like that is essentially normal procedure when we do any kind of a bridge project.''
Acquiring those parcels will allow the state DOT to expand the city's Riverwalk beneath the bridge and connect it to Steele Street, Ms. Surdej said.
''We will do that on our own land,'' she said.
Structurally, the bridge is sound. The Federal Highway Administration gave the bridge a score of 86, with 100 being the top score, while the state DOT gave it a 4.36 rating, with 7 being the top score.
The bridge won't reopen until the spring months of 2011, Ms. Surdej said. She said state DOT officials expect to begin detouring traffic off the bridge in February 2010.
''The contractor will start this fall, so he won't get to use a full construction season this year,'' she said. ''We won't detour traffic until early next year, and from there it will take about a year or so to get the bridge taken apart and a new one built.''
Traffic will be detoured using two different routes - one for truck traffic and one for vehicular traffic.
Trucks will be detoured off Route 60 at South Main Street and will be directed west on Harrison Street and Steele Street, where they can then turn onto Route 394 and pick up Route 60 again at the intersection of Fifth Street and North Main Street. Motorists in other vehicles will be detoured off Route 60 at South Main Street. Following Main Street north will reconnect those drivers with Route 60.
''The southbound detours will, of course, follow those same roads,'' Ms. Surdej said. ''The only reason we're detouring truck traffic up Steele Street to Route 394 is because the railroad bridge over Main Street isn't tall enough for tractor-trailers.''
State DOT officials will put about $4 million in American Reinvestment and Recovery Act funds toward the overall cost of the project, which Ms. Surdej said is expected to top $18 million.