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Former Route 219 bridge goes down with a bang

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

In a matter of just seconds, the former Route 219 bridge over Cattaraugus Creek was brought down into a pile of steel. The event was celebrated by dignitaries including Governor Andrew Cuomo, who said the implosion was a metaphor for the progress that is finally coming to Western New York after years of "sustained inaction."

Cuomo joined New York State Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll and other officials to push the plunger, which brought the abandoned steel span down. It will eventually be replaced by a new bridge that officials say will improve access to local businesses and, thus, boost the economy in this region about 35 miles south of Buffalo.

"It's really another example of positive results from the state, listening to and working with local communities to support their needs while boosting an entire region in the process," said Matthew Driscoll, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Transportation.

The new bridge is expected to be completed in 2017. 

Governor Cuomo again stated the need for the state to invest in Upstate economic development. He says the Buffalo area is getting the most of it now because they've been held back the longest. 

"This is one state. We are one family. We should invest in the entire state," Cuomo said. "If Upstate New York does better economically, the entire state does better economically. Because we're one large balance sheet at the end of the day."

Following the ceremony, Cuomo and Driscoll fielded questions from reporters, including one about the long talked about idea to expand the 219 expressway further south.

Credit Michael Mroziak, WBFO
Governor Andrew Cuomo, at the podium, and New York State Transportation Commissioner Matthew Driscoll provide remarks prior to the implosion of the former Route 219 bridge over Cattaraugus Creek. The span will be replaced next year.

"The entire 219 Corridor project is north of a billion dollars," Driscoll said. "At this time we don't have those resources but we are interested in working forward with our federal partners. There have been previous (environmental impact studies). We're also looking at an additional one. It's something that clearly will need support from the federal government."

The steel remains that fell into Cattaraugus Creek are expected to be picked up by the weekend. According to Susan Surdej, regional public information officer for the DOT, dump trucks and a shear crane were already on standby as the bridge came down.

"You can imagine this is going to be a heavy lift, an ongoing process," Surdej said. "The contractor would like to see all the steel removed out of the creek by Saturday. This is going to be a quick process. They're not going to have it all trucked away by then, but they want to get it out of the creek bed by Saturday."

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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