Construction will begin at the end of this month on the $29 million rehabilitation of Buffalo's Route 5 Skyway, leaving the question of how much impact there will be to commuters and those who rely on them.
During the course of morning commutes this summer and the next, the inbound lanes of the Skyway will remain open, while the outbound lanes are closed. During the afternoon commute, outbound lanes will be open and the inbound lanes will close. There will be lane closures in both directions from 3 a.m.-5 a.m. and 11 a.m.-noon on weekdays.
Of the 40,000 or so drivers who use the raised highway each day, a handful of them stop at Rooster's Cafe on Ridge Road in Lackawanna. Owner John Ristich has been there for 13 years and is concerned about the impact Skyway construction will have on his small diner.
"The people in the neighborhood will come in and patronize me, but the people who go to work will take a different route," said Ristich. He's worried about the impact because construction on the nearby rail overpass along Ridge Road in 2007 nearly cost him his business. The project lasted five years.
"People didn't want to come over the bridge and wait in one lane," recalled Ristich. "It was bad."
As far as the route goes for this summer's Skyway rehab, commuters will either have to follow posted detours or come up with their own alternate path around the Tifft Nature Preserve and through South Buffalo.
Inbound commuters will be detoured off Route 5 to Ohio Street, to Louisiana Street, to Hamburg Street and then onto the northbound I-190. Outbound commuters will be diverted past the Skyway to the Louisiana Street exit of the I-190, then south on Louisiana to Ohio Street and back to Route 5. Without traffic, the detour should only add a few minutes to commutes in either direction.
"It's a minor inconvenience," said North Buffalo resident Ron Chimera.
Chimera is a food salesman with clients along Route 5 and farther into the Southtowns. He's been using the Skyway since it opened in 1955 and uses it on a daily basis now, usually driving against the major flow of traffic.
He'll certainly be impacted by the lane closures, but said it's worth it to see the road he uses every day kept in good repair.
"You'd rather have a safe bridge and take a little extra time getting there than to have a not-so-safe bridge," said Chimera. "I would imagine that to be the better of two evils."
The public will have a chance to hear the details of the lane closures and changes coming to the Skyway during an open meeting Thursday from 4 p.m.-7 p.m. at the Gateway Building, 3556 Lake Shore Boulevard, Blasdell.
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