SCHUMER: LACK OF YEAR-ROUND BRIDGE CONNECTING IRONDEQUOIT & WEBSTER HURTS LOCAL BUSINESSES, RESIDENTS & LEAVES TOWNS VULNERABLE DURING EMERGENCY – SENATOR LAUNCHES PUSH FOR FED FUNDING THAT WOULD ALLOW TOWN TO PROVIDE YEAR-ROUND ACCESS ACROSS BRIDGE THAT WORKS FOR RESIDENTS & BOATERS
Current Bridge Connecting Irondequoit & Webster Is A Lose-Lose; When It Is Swung Closed In Summer Months To Accommodate Boat Traffic, Local Businesses Suffer, Residents Are Forced To Travel Up To 20 Minutes Out Of The Way To Cross Irondequoit Bay & Emergency Response Times Increase; When It Re-Opens In Winter, Boaters Lose Access
Schumer: The Time Is Now To Launch Push To Upgrade The Bay Outlet Bridge for Year-Round Access
Today, on the Irondequoit side of the Irondequoit Bay Outlet Bridge, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer launched his push to secure federal funding to provide year-round access across the Bay Outlet Bridge connecting Irondequoit and Webster. Schumer said that this bridge in its current form is a lose-lose for local residents. In the spring and summer months, the bridge closes to vehicular traffic in order to let boats through, forcing local residents to travel up to 20 minutes out of their way to get around Irondequoit Bay; this detour inconveniences residents, hurts local businesses and increases response times for first responders. And when the bridge re-opens in fall and winter, it cuts off boaters from accessing Lake Ontario. Schumer said that the time is now to upgrade the Bay Outlet Bridge and he announced the first phase of his push to find a year-round solution that works for both drivers and boaters.
“Providing boaters access to Lake Ontario during the summer months and providing residents and emergency crews the year-round access they need is critical to the towns of Irondequoit and Webster. Right now, this missing link is not only a deterrent to businesses and an inconvenience for residents and boaters, but it is also a safety hazard for emergency crews that need to travel miles out of the way just to find a connection to the other side of the Irondequoit Bay,” said Schumer. “Right now, this situation is a lose-lose. That is why I am pushing to secure the federal funds needed to begin making a year-round bridge a reality. There are a number of solutions that will benefit boaters, motorists, business, residents and emergency responders alike, and it is high time we bridge the gap. We are not talking about financing the Golden Gate Bridge; we are talking about developing a low-cost, year-round solution that works, and I will not stop fighting until this becomes a reality.”
Schumer explained that, for the last 16 years, the seasonal bridge spanning the towns of Irondequoit and Webster has been a problem for motorists, boaters, businesses, and public safety officials. Each year, a truss bridge, which is installed by swinging it into place, is placed across the outlet on November 1 and then taken out on March 31. Schumer said that when this connecting bridge between Irondequoit and Webster is swung closed to accommodate boat traffic, local business owners and residents are forced to travel out of the way to cross the Irondequoit Bay. The lack of the bridge during the intervening months forces motorists to instead traverse up to a 20-minute detour, which significantly hampers local merchants and businesses’ ability to attract customers, particularly during the popular summer months. More than 5,600 vehicles cross the bridge daily between November 1 and March 31 each year, but the lack of the bridge during the intervening months forces motorists to instead traverse an up to 10-mile detour. Schumer said that finding a new, year-round solution to the seasonal bridge is imperative for the two towns; it would enhance the regional transportation network, improve residents’ quality of life, and enhance community character all while bolstering public safety and economic activity.
Schumer said that one of the primary reasons for having a bridge that is open to vehicular and boating traffic year-round is the need for emergency responders to have quick, unfettered access to both sides. Emergency response suffers when crews and public safety officials must travel out of their way to avoid the closed bridge during a serious situation. Schumer cited the tragic 2012 Christmas Eve shooting in West Webster that took place close to the bridge as a safety concern. Schumer said that, thankfully, the bridge was in place during that event, so first responders were able to access the scene, but, had the shooting occurred in July, first responders would have had limited access.
Schumer also noted that the bridge serves as a primary evacuation route in the event of an emergency like a major storm or flood, or in the event of an emergency at the nearby Ginna nuclear power plant. Schumer said that, due to the significant function of this bridge, its seasonality is unacceptable and that we should not wait for a serious emergency to arise to provide year round access across the bridge.
Schumer announced today a long-term commitment to secure federal funds to make a year-round Outlet Bridge a reality. Schumer said the first step is securing $70,000 in federal funding to determine the best option for making the bridge function year-round for motorists and boaters. Schumer explained that the Town of Irondequoit, with support from the Town of Webster, has applied for a $70,000 federal Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) grant for a Transportation Improvement Study to determine the best solution to improve circulation, access, and parking in the Sea Breeze neighborhood, and determine all potential solutions to provide year-round access across the Bay Outlet Bridge. Schumer said the funds would be allocated through the local nine-county federal metropolitan planning organization in the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, the Genesee Transportation Council. Awards are expected to be made during the first quarter of 2015.
Schumer said that this is the first step in providing year-round access across the Bay Outlet and in positioning the final plan to secure federal funding for design and/or construction. Schumer said that there are a range of options that have been sought and discussed for years such as automating the bridge, motorizing the bridge so that it can be moved on demand or on a set schedule, or replacing it with a year-round permanent bridge. Schumer said the time is now to determine the option that works best for motorists, boaters, residents, visitors, and emergency responders and get the project moving forward.
Schumer was joined by Irondequoit Town Supervisor Adam Bello, Webster Town Supervisor Ron Nesbitt, local residents and business owners.
“Nearly half of every year the Sea Breeze area is difficult to get to for people wanting to visit and enjoy Irondequoit Bay, additionally public safety is jeopardized without a year-round capability to cross the outlet bridge,” said Adam Bello, Irondequoit Town Supervisor. “The goal of this project is to start developing answers to improve transportation, including looking at how we can provide year round access across the Irondequoit Bay outlet for residents and visitors while maintaining boater access.”
“In addition to the fact that Webster residents’ commutes are tripled or quadrupled without a year round bridge capability, this is a public safety issue,” said Ronald Nesbitt, Webster Town Supervisor. “Access for first responders and for residents to use in the event of an emergency is blocked seven months of the year. I’m pleased to support this study to begin to find a better solution.”
“Every year right as we are entering our busiest season, the road that brings customers and visitors to the front door of our family-owned business is yanked away,” saidTerry Klee, owner of Don’s Original in Sea Breeze. “There’s no question that the lack of year round access across the 185 feet outlet separating Irondequoit from Webster undercuts our business, hurts the towns that rely on business to support their tax base, and holds back the entire Seabreeze business and tourist area from reaching its full potential. It’s just good business sense to make an investment now that will finally give us the answers needed to allow year-round access across the outlet and I appreciate Senator Schumer and the Towns’ work to make this happen.”
A copy of Senator Schumer’s letter to the Unified Planning Work Program appears below:
I am writing in support of the Town of Irondequoit’s application for federal Unified Planning Work Program (UPWP) funding to initiate a Sea Breeze Transportation Improvement Study to study potential solutions to provide year-round access across the Bay Outlet Bridge and to boost overall circulation, access, and parking in this popular area. As you know the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) federally-designated Metropolitan Planning Organizations like the nine-county Genesee Transportation Council, will allocate federal transportation funding to local municipalities to initiate planning, analysis, and initial design for local transportation projects.
For decades, local residents, businesses, motorists, and elected officials have sought a better solution to accommodate vehicle, pedestrian, and boater access across the Irondequoit Bay channel throughout the entire year, but the lack of feasibility and planning funding has prevented consideration and analysis of possible alternatives. This project will seek funding to assess the feasibility of potential alternatives to provide year round access across the Bay Outlet. This study is the first step needed to prioritize an alternative and position it to ultimately secure design or construction funding.
This project fits squarely within the UPWP criteria to fund projects that “add to the efficiency of the regional transportation network, improve residents’ quality of life, and enhance community character” all while bolstering public safety and economic activity. More than 5,600 vehicles cross the bridge daily between November 1 and March 31 each year, but the lack of the bridge during the intervening months forces motorists to instead traverse an up to ten mile detour and significantly hampers local merchants and businesses’ ability to attract customers, particularly during the popular summer months. Moreover, the lack of vehicle access is a public safety concern. The bridge provides critical access for emergency personal and first responders as evidenced during the tragic 2012 Christmas Eve attack, and provides an evacuation route in the event of an emergency such as during Superstorm Sandy or in the event of an emergency at the nearby Ginna nuclear power plant. I appreciate your consideration of this request.
Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator