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Erie Boulevard work on fast track

Race on to finish reconstruction by first snowfall

Thursday, September 26, 2013
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Northbound traffic at stand still at noon on Wednesday afternoon.
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Northbound traffic at stand still at noon on Wednesday afternoon.

— By now, the reconstruction of Erie Boulevard was supposed to be “substantially” done.

Instead, workers are hoping for a late winter. They will be racing the clock to finish the job before the first snowfall.

“We’re hoping to be done by the end of the year,” said City Engineer Chris Wallin.

The delays aren’t making drivers happy. The intersection of State Street and Erie Boulevard is gridlocked even at midday, and the street becomes almost impassible during rush hour.

Residents have complained, demanding that the work be done faster.

They’re getting their wish now.

The project is so far behind that the city asked the Department of Labor for permission to run 12-hour shifts, six days a week.

Saturday was the first time workers had permission to stay on the job all day. And they did, taking advantage of every minute of good weather.

“It’s so weather-dependent,” Wallin said, adding that he can’t say quite when the street will be finished.

“It’s a moving target.”

The two-year project was on target as late as June. Despite weeks of rain, workers had stayed on schedule, said Senior Civil Engineer John O’Sullivan, who was overseeing the project for the city.

Unfortunately, he had to take medical leave and is not expected to be able to return.

“He’s hoping to be back to see the ribbon-cutting,” Wallin said.

O’Sullivan had intended to have the major work completed by mid-September. That’s when the lane closures were supposed to be over.

Workers would have continued to hang signs and do other small jobs, but from the standpoint of a driver, the road would have been done.

But when workers dug into the road this summer, they hit trouble.

“The issue has been unforeseen utility conflicts,” Wallin said. “You get into a lot of conflicts underground when you actually see how things are actually installed. You’d have to remove an old electric line before putting in a new one. All of those things added time.”

He said O’Sullivan’s illness didn’t slow anything down, but added that the city would love to have him back.

“He’s got more years of experience with construction than I have of life. He is missed on the project,” Wallin said.

Now, it’s just a matter of racing winter.

“We’re hoping to avoid any winter weather conditions,” Wallin said. “We’re fighting a deadline.”

The $14 million project will rebuild Erie Boulevard from the I-890 interchange to Union Street. The work includes new infrastructure under the road, new lights, intersections that meet the boulevard at a better angle, a pedestrian-friendly median and sidewalks.

The funding came from the state and federal governments, with Schenectady contributing 5 percent of the total cost.

 
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