Future of Lake Street Bridge Debated in Elmira

Posted July 8, 2011

Lake Street Bridge a Step Closer to Pedestrian Traffic
By Ray Finger, The Star-Gazette

Close to 100 people packed Elmira City Hall on July 5th as four downtown businesses urged City Council to keep the Lake Street Bridge open to motor vehicle traffic.

The bridge has been closed since mid-March due to faulty joints discovered in a routine inspection. City officials deemed repairs to reopen the bridge to vehicular traffic would be too costly, so it eventually is to be converted to a pedestrian bridge.

"The city's decision to close the Lake Street bridge is very disturbing to me as a business owner and a taxpayer in the city of Elmira," said Joseph Valicenti, president and CEO of Valicenti Advisory Services Inc.

Katherine Roehlke, president and CEO of F.M. Howell and Co., said customers and prospective customers have negative perceptions of the company and community because of the closed bridge.

"We're located on the other side of the bridge, and we've lost our access to the city," said Eiron Smith, president of Howell, Liberatore and Associates Inc.

Michael Hosey, president and CEO of Elmira Savings Bank, addressed the council on May 23 and June 6 about the bridge and spoke about it again last Tuesday.

"As you have heard tonight from three highly capable CEOs, the abandonment of the Lake Street Bridge will have an adverse effect on the business community that surrounds it," he said. "We must not accept abandoned buildings, abandoned bridges and abandoned hopes."

Despite their pleas, City Council voted to hire Haas Landscape Architects to conduct a study of what it would take to convert the bridge and create a pedestrian corridor.

Hosey proposed the city sell Riverfront Park to Elmira Savings Bank in return for covering what is needed to fix the bridge.

But Corporation Counsel John Ryan Jr. said that would require City Council to request municipal home rule legislation not just from the state but also from the federal government because federal funding has been used in the park.


Lake Street Bridge Study Approved
By Rebecca Solomon, WETM-TV

Neighbors and business people associated with the City of Elmira tried to convince the city council to reopen the Lake Street Bridge.

The Elmira City Council voted to perform a feasibility and cost of rehabilitation study of the Lake Street Bridge.  Council members say the study is a step towards the best long term solution for the bridge.

But before the vote more than 50 concerned taxpayers, many of whom work at businesses that are near the Lake Street Bridge, told council members to fix the bridge for traffic.

It has been closed since mid-March for safety concerns.

Eiron Smith, of Liberatore Associates, says, "When I look outside my office window, it's embarrassing. I see barriers, orange cones...I also see several accidents on Madison Street Bridge outside my office."

Joe Valicenti, of Valicenti Advisory Services, says, "It's an important landmark that has withstood a lot of test of time. The only bridge that survived the 1972 flood and they've closed it due to some failed maintenance and updates that needed to be done."

City officials say the bridge would cost more than a million dollars to repair. Mayor John Tonello says it's money the city doesn't have.

The council agrees a pedestrian bridge is the cheapest option that's going to enhance Elmira.

Mayor Tonello says, "There's a lot going on with riverfront project, grant money, parks. A pedestrian walkway will be an integral part of that."

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