By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — ALBION — Downtown merchants say the closure of the Main Street Bridge Thursday in Albion has impacted their businesses, but most said they are happy to see the necessary repairs to the lift bridge progressing quickly.
The bridge was closed to traffic Thursday after a safety review revealed deficiencies in 16 of the beams supporting the cross-canal bridge deck. Crews from the New York State Department of Transportation worked from a barge positioned underneath the lift bridge Tuesday, making repairs that began over the Veterans Day weekend and continued through the holiday.
At the Golden Gourd Bistro, Louisa Shiffer said business had slowed after the bridge closure brought out road-blocking signage on both ends of the block.
”A lot of the businesses get people who are going downtown to shop, but people don’t want to go through construction,” Shiffer said at the Main Street restaurant. “It cut people out from coming here.”
Most businesses along Main and Bank streets reported that their regular customers are still coming out, but the normal flow of out-of-town shoppers has been slow in coming downtown while the lift bridge receives repairs.
“We have our loyal group of customers coming in,” Gary Withey of Fischer’s Newsroom said. “We have a great group of customers. We’ll be okay as long as it not a long closure.”
Fred Miller, who watched surprised semi drivers stop dead in their tracks at the detour from his True Value Family Hardware store, said he remembers the “devastating” effect of the last significant bridge closure, which last for more than a year in the mid-1980s.
“The road becomes a dead end,” said Miller, who noted the side door — where his everyday customers come in — has been busy, but the front door — where those stumbling in to find a special part arrive — has been quiet.
According to Public Information Officer Lori Maher, NYSDOT has not set an expected completion date for the project, although she noted that it will likely be closed to traffic “throughout this week” at the least. Maher said that some of the beams are being replaced, while others are being repaired.
Business owners said they were impressed by DOT’s commitment to repairing the bridge.
”It’s apparent they’ve made it a priority,” Withey said, noting that the steel needed to shore up some areas arrived over the weekend.
“None of the businesses are against fixing it,” Shiffer said. “If it needs to be fixed, then it has to be fixed.”
Maher said that once the repairs are completed, another review of the bridge’s load capacity will be undertaken. It is possible that the road, which carries state Route 98 towards state Routes 104 and 31 and the New York State Thruway, would be limited to non-commercial traffic in the short-term after reopening.
The closure of the Main Street Bridge reduced the number of canal crossings in the village to just one — Ingersoll Street. The Brown Street bridge was also closed during the summer. Maher said that bridge will continue to remain closed as NYSDOT undergoes an assessment of all the canal bridges in the Rochester area.
Signs for the closure stretched back to the intersection of 98 and 104, but that didn’t prevent some commercial drivers from having to make some quick decisions to get to their destinations. One semi driver hopped out of his cab to ask for detour directions — NYSDOT recommends heading east five miles to Fancher Road — before jumping back in.
“Watch my back,” he said before executing a three-point turn that brought his semi along the Five Star Bank on West Bank Street before backing it up onto the eastbound lane of East Bank Street and finally southbound on Main.
Despite the closure, there was still out-of-town business coming in. At the Golden Gourd, a group of Red Hat Society members from Orleans and western Monroe County streamed into the restaurant for lunch.
“If we want to go somewhere, nothing will stop us,” said Joan Lavell, a Brockport resident.