WEST SENECA, NY - It was big news back in December 2002 when the so called fourth-lane project for the Thruway Authority was finally done. The addition of the fourth lane to the mainline Thruway between exits 53 and 54 in West Seneca was said to be one of the largest projects of its time. Buffalo Business First put the contract cost back then at $62.5 million.
But then motorists noticed it was not smooth sailing over a stretch of that roadway -- especially near the 190 exit lane for Downtown Buffalo. In a January 2008 story, Ken Hansen of West Seneca told us, "It's about every 30 or 40 feet ... it's in a wave. Like a roller coaster. It should be smooth as glass."
Even the Thruway Authority back in 2008 told 2 On Your Side that some Thruway Authority staff members pointed out it was not a smooth ride. And the Thruway Authority back then called on the American Concrete Pavement Association and the Federal Highway Administration to look into the issue.
Thruway Buffalo Division Director Tom Pericak declined a recorded interview request for this story, but he did say the Authority decided in 2008 that while it was an issue for motorists, it was not a safety concern.
The work to smooth out the road surface was put off until this year when a major $7 million dollar pavement rehabilitation project was launched for that same stretch of the Thruway, which Pericak says was more cost effective.
Pericak says engineers determined the original concrete from that fourth-lane project finished in 2002 actually developed a curling problem with excessive expansion and contraction of the pavement. The authority hired a contractor to do specialized diamond grinding to smooth the road surface, and that actually prompted complaints from South Buffalo residents about the unusual buzzing noise in the night-time hours that 2 On Your Side reported on earlier this week.
He says that grinding should also make the highway more skid resistant as it sheds moisture and reduce the potential for potholes. Pericak says this new work, which will be completed as of next Wednesday, should resolve the pavement problem.
Pericak says there is no way to recover any contract costs from the original contractor despite this problem which has gone on for years. Thruway Authority Board Vice Chairwoman Donna Luh agreed but feels the current project will again resolve the issue.
WGRZ/Buffalo Business First