Erie County Executive Answers Questions About Goodrich Road

7:20 PM, Jun 19, 2013   |    comments
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CLARENCE, N.Y. -- David Leeds had a pothole problem.

He and his wife, Eileen, live along the northern portion of Goodrich Road, and last summer a giant hole emerged in front of his lawn.

This is Life on Goodrich.

"My wife called the county and said, 'look, we got a big hole out there," Leeds said. "And they said they were out of money. She said, 'well remember that and mark it down when I called you when somebody gets killed.'"

Leeds and his wife say they won't allow their grandchildren to ride their bikes on the road because "there's nowhere to go." There are crevices, holes, faded pavement and deteriorated concrete all along Goodrich, which is why Erie County Director of Engineering Charles Sickler said portions of it are rated by an outside agency as "poor." In the 2 On Your Side series about the worst roads in Western New York, viewers voted it the fourth-worst roadway in the area.

And in 2011, during his campaign for office, County Executive Mark Poloncarz held a press conference about incumbent Chris Collins' failure to address crumbling roads in Erie County.

He specifically pointed out Goodrich Road as a problem. Then he took a camera and highlighted the issues himself, traveling to the edge of Goodrich and Tonawanda Creek Road.

"This is a county road and it's in really bad shape," he said in that video, angling the camera toward the road to show the deterioration.

However, since the campaign, Erie County's Public Works Department has not renovated Goodrich Road.

It also has no plans to renovate the road in 2013.

Poloncarz said Goodrich is "on his radar," but there are simply other roads with more traffic, more safety issues and more pressing concerns that must be addressed first.

Except he's changing his words from his 2011 campaign.

"Well, the road is not horrendous," Poloncarz told 2 On Your Side on Tuesday. "It's not like it's in terrible shape, and that's why it's not the highest priority."

When 2 On Your Side reminded him of the video he published to YouTube in 2011 - and his comments that Goodrich Road was in "really bad shape" -- he defended his record on the roads.

"That's unfair," he said, "because you're not talking about the other roads that we went and we videotaped and we fixed. Some of them we're not able to get to right now."

Poloncarz did videotape Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda, which has become a renovation project for the city and county. He also higlighted the intersection of County and Strickler in Clarence, which he claimed was the most important issue among the citizens of the town-- not Goodrich Road.

The 2013 schedule includes $400,000 in renovations at County and Strickler.

"That was the number-one priority," Poloncarz said. "That's what my administration was pushing and we got it done. And the prior administration did not."

Poloncarz said a capitol budget committee -- consisting of his office, public works officials and legislators -- sets the priority list. That means he has some input, but not necessarily the final say in the process.

Poloncarz cited a lack of funding from the legislature, claiming it left him with an $8 million hole that could have been used for roads like Goodrich.

"If the legislature was responsible and gave me a more balanced budget, then we could have done more," Poloncarz said.

Without that money, it might need to come out of your tax dollars.

"If the people of Clarence want a tax increase and are willing to pay a tax increase, then I could pay for more roads," Poloncarz said. "But I bet you if I go there, most of those people say, 'don't raise my taxes'."

From a Public Works standpoint, Sickler said he and his team rely on ratings from the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council to make determinations about which roads to prioritize. The scale runs from one to 10-- a higher number means a better road condition. When the GBNRTC rates a road as "5" or poorer, Sickler said that's when his department begins to assess the problem.

Portions of Goodrich do rate as five, but not all of them. And since fewer cars travel on the road as compared to others, Sickler said it's fallen down the priority list.

"We recognize that is has a condition rating that is poor," Sickler said. "But we need the new traffic counts and numbers coming in, and then we'll prioritize it accordingly."

Sickler said he couldn't make any promises to the people along Goodrich Road. He said he hears their concerns. He knows they're frustrated. And after 2 On Your Side aired our first story about Goodrich Road on Monday evening, he said he received three angry phone calls from residents on Tuesday.

He may not be able to say anything definite, but Sickler's got a message for them.

"There is no argument. There are concerns and I feel for those people," Sickler said. "We haven't forgotten about you. And we will be there. It's just a matter of time and resources."

David Leeds has been hearing that for a while.

"It needs to happen soon," Leeds said. "It'd be a shame if something happened to somebody, if there was a fatality or something, but it's going to happen and they've got to fix it."

Until then, it'll still be a rocky road.

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