The following is a guest column from Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz.
September is here, and although cooler nights are in store for us, in the coming weeks, a busy season of road repair and maintenance is continuing across the county, as Erie County Highway crews prepare for the coming winter months. Earlier this year, my administration committed to conduct $34 million of work to maintain and improve our infrastructure and I am pleased to say that crews have been working in every corner of Erie County on road and bridge work. That is a lot of work, as Erie County is responsible for 1,200 centerline miles of road, or 2,400 total lane miles, which is more than the total areas of Delaware, Rhode Island and Hawaii.
Extensive paving and patching occurred around Erie County this year, with 200 tons of asphalt used in Aurora/East Aurora, 1,125 tons in Boston/Concord on Springville-Boston Road and 350 tons used in Concord. Work on Bullis and Bowen roads in Elma accounted for 1,500 tons, while in Holland, 185 tons were used, compared to 500 tons in Orchard Park on Gartman Road and 240 tons in Wales.
Genesee Road in Collins/Sardinia also received 940 tons of new asphalt. In addition to all this paving and patching, the highway department conducted more than $200,000 worth of guiderail repairs in these communities and mowed every road, at least once.
Drivers in the Southtowns will notice that work on Rogers Road in the town of Hamburg, from Route 5 to Pleasant Avenue, is wrapping up, as a railroad quiet zone has been created in that neighborhood; soon, Rogers Road will be transferred from the county to the town. Bridges have been washed, painted, and deck sealed in Evans, Concord, Lackawanna, Orchard Park, Boston and Aurora, improving safety now and preserving this infrastructure, for the future.
Crews reconstructed Zoar Valley Road in Concord, which had experienced a slope failure and also paved Maple Street in Aurora. Major reconstruction also continues on Penora Street and Stony Road in Lancaster. As you can see, maintaining the safety of county roads is a top priority of my administration.
That extends into the winter months, as well. You may have heard that Erie County is currently negotiating a new snowplowing agreement with towns, to ensure that county roads are kept clear, during the winter months. The county’s snowplowing contract expense has increased by 105 percent, over a 12-year period, as the towns have received annual increases of 5 percent for snowplowing.
However, during the same 12-year period the division of highways’ budget, which includes county snowplowing, has increased only 18 percent.
While the towns have enjoyed substantial annual increases at taxpayer expense, the county has held the line on our expenses, the costs of which are borne by all county taxpayers. Fiscal restraint and common sense are needed, at all levels of government, and we will continue to negotiate to reach an agreement that is fair to taxpayers and doesn’t gouge the county, while providing the snowplowing service that we all need.