Tonawanda News

June 6, 2013

Connection upgrade

Frederick B. Durkee Memorial Bridge will get repairs

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Traffic to Tonawanda Island will be slow throughout the summer months as work begins on the Frederick Durkee Memorial Bridge. 

The 600-foot bridge named after a former North Tonawanda mayor is now 50 years old, with deficiencies to its deck and jointed systems as well as steel portions of the bridge. The project to replace much of the aging structure will cost more than $2.6 million, largely through federal funding. Another $420,000 was bonded by the city in 2007. 

The bridge work was originally slated to cost $ 1.3 million, though some of the cost increases can be attributed to inflation. Completion of the project will not take place until November with traffic instead detoured through one of the bridges two lanes, according to City Engineer Dale Marshall.

 “The reason it’s going to take that long is you have to perform the work without shutting it down entirely,” Marshall said. 

The span is the only roadway connecting Tonawanda Island with the rest of the city.

City officials are also viewing the island as a key component to any major overhaul to North Tonawanda’s slowly developing waterfront, with vacant brownfields being studied for possible remediation — and long-eyed plans future commercial or residential development. 

Besides the obvious safety reasons necessitating the repairs, the bridge project is also another move toward the city’s grand vision of turning up to 40 acres now sitting vacant as brownfields into mixed-use, high-end condominiums, office space and retail. The ideas of green space and the addition of a boardwalk for public access have also been broached.

A steady industrial and manufacturing presence exists on Tonawanda Island as well along with water-related businesses. 

Michael Zimmerman, planning and development coordinator for the Lumber City Development Corp., said remediating the brownfields is one of the biggest challenges to moving development forward on the under-utilized island. 

“The issue of environmental contamination, that’s on the big list for somebody to come in and take on,” he said. “But right now in terms of bringing new development to the island, with all the potential that it has, having the bridge intact is obviously step one in bringing interest over to see it.” 

Zimmerman said that widening of the bridge would be viewed in the future, should any large-scale development plans move forward. 

“If we can get the redevelopment to full capacity the bridge will be expanded,” he said. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.