The scent of blacktop is in the air. It's that time of year when governments speed up construction and repair of roads and bridges as the better weather arrives. And this year will be harder for those crews, as people return to the road.
Drivers will be fully aware of road projects because there will be detours, single lanes of traffic or squeezing through a construction site, perhaps with police watching speedometers.
"I would say that we are heading into this year in a pretty decent spot," said Niagara County Public Works Commissioner Garret Meal. "The winter wasn't as harsh as it could be. We did get some additional maintenance activities done that maybe we wouldn't if we were as busy plowing. So we're heading into this construction year in a good spot."
Meal said last year was simpler because so many people were quarantined and off the road. In the depths of the pandemic, there just weren't that many cars on those roads, as people stayed huddled up at home and not behind the wheel. The commissioner said this made many projects go quickly and smoothly.
He said this year's projects will be highly visible to drivers and neighbors.
"One being Sunset Drive in the Town of Lockport," Meal said. "We have a number of other projects that are currently being bid out. We have a bridge liner in the Town of Pendleton, a new bridge replacement in the Town of Pendleton on Bear Ridge Road, as well as a road resurfacing project on Bear Ridge Road."
Meal said there is also a little bit of dreaming going on, as Washington, DC ponders an infrastructure bill.
"We've been working over the past few months on developing a wish list, if some additional funding were to come about. What kind of projects might make sense," he said. "And we've been reviewing that in house and developing that wish list."
Meal said there was concern that the price of blacktop and structural steel would rise this year, as so many other items have risen. He hasn't seen that and a high percentage of Niagara County's projects have already been bid, with the price in the contract.