By Jesse Mast

Federal funding has been approved for the replacement of the former Route 219 bridge over Cattaraugus Creek, New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald announced last week.

This announcement follows the temporary closure of the bridge in January 2012 due to structural concerns discovered during the bridge’s annual inspection. The bridge, which is on South Cascade Drive in Concord and Miller Road in Ashford, underwent emergency repairs of its frozen bearings and reopened a few months later. Due to concerns relating to the bridge’s influence on the local economy, the NYSDOT expedited the repairs and the bridge reopened ahead of schedule

However, the bridge, which was constructed in 1956, is simply past “its useful life,” according to NYSDOT Public Information Officer Susan Surdej.

Even with the construction of the Southern Expressway twin arch bridges in 2010, the bridge on former Route 219 has remained of great importance for local businesses as a passage between Cattaraugus and Erie counties.

“We understand [the bridge] is a vital conduit for commerce,” said Surdej.

“For years the residents and businesses of Springville and northern Cattaraugus County have made their sentiments known that the old Route 219 Bridge is more than a viaduct connecting two counties,” said Senator Patrick Gallivan. Replacement of the bridge will come as a welcome relief to local residents and businesses that rely heavily on the access the bridge provides.

“While divided by Cattaraugus Creek, southern Erie and Cattaraugus counties are, in many ways, one community,” said Congressman Christopher Collins, according to a May 20 press release from NYSDOT.  “The former Route 219 Bridge is critical to this dynamic. Its replacement will ensure safe and convenient travel will occur between these two counties for a long time to come to the benefit of the local economy. This is an appropriate use of federal tax dollars and I look forward to the completion of this project.”

Representative Tom Reed commented, “During a meeting with highway commissioners just last month, we discussed the Route 219 project and its prospects. Today, thanks to successful partnerships with local, state and federal partners, we are pleased to join in recognizing that funds will ensure safe, reliable transportation for all who use the 219 corridor.”

The full cost of the project is not yet determined, but Surdej said the federal funding is planned to cover the entire cost to replace the bridge.

“At this time approximately $11.5 million has been allocated,” said Surdej.

Senator Catharine Young said, “

The long-term prospects for the bridge were in doubt, and we worked with Governor Cuomo to secure its future. It was a huge relief to small businesses and residents when it reopened after repairs, and now rebuilding the bridge is tremendously important to our economy and quality of life.”

Assemblyman Joseph Giglio agreed that replacement

of the bridge is “critically important.”

The project is currently in preliminary design and work is

scheduled to begin in 2015.

Because of the bridge’s importance to the surrounding communities, Surdej said that in time more information would become available. This will include a public meeting in which people may hear their concerns addressed. “The community will be well-informed throughout the process,” Surdej said.

In the meantime, the bridge remains open, with a posted maximum weight of 15 tons.

“The bridge is absolutely safe,”  Surdej said