The Connecting Terminal Elevator may or may not have a starring role in a new bridge connecting downtown to the outer harbor. The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is undertaking a structural inspection of the grain elevator to determine the condition of the elevator and how it affects the Main Street bridge alternatives currently being studied.
Still in the environmental review phase, both Main Street and Erie Street remain feasible alternatives as bridge sites. While no determination has been made regarding the bridge’s final location, several sub-alternatives for each location are being studied further. Sub-alternatives for the Main Street location include building the bridge around the grain elevator, through a portion of the elevator, or removing the elevator. The “through” sub-alternative would involve the restoration of the remaining sections and missing pieces of the elevator.
“Our first option, because of historic resource concerns, is to go around the elevator but that involves investing a significant amount into public infrastructure and leaving a deteriorating, possibly unsafe, grain elevator sitting next to it,” said ECHDC President Tom Dee.
ECHDC began designing a Main Street alternative that avoided the grain elevator to the north. However, after speaking with several stakeholders groups, there was concern that a bridge in this location would negatively impact the view of the grain elevator from the inner harbor – where most people can see it. A second avoidance alternative, which located the bridge south of the grain elevator, was then developed. While the view is less impacted, the constructing the bridge over the City Ship Canal increased costs considerably and impacts a greater portion of available land.
“Avoiding the grain elevator creates its own set of impacts. It’s more costly to build the bridge around it, it eats up more prime waterfront land, and we don’t even know if it’s safe to leave it in place,”, said project manager Steven Ranalli. “It’s a unique structure and it will require a unique solution to deal with it properly.”
ECHDC presented the various Main Street sub-alternatives to the preservation community during the scoping process earlier this year. Lorrain Pierro, President of the Industrial Heritage Committee, feels the “through” option could provide a “gateway entrance that would spotlight the grain elevators and the City, and connect the Erie Canal with the Industrial Heritage Trail along the Outer Harbor Parkway,” Preservation Buffalo Niagara and the Campaign for Greater Buffalo have also been briefed on the Main Street alternatives. The New York State Historic Preservation Office has also seen the early concepts and is awaiting the full study before making any determination.
The Connecting Terminal Elevator, built in two sections during the first half of the 20th century, has been idle since the late 1960s. The elevator has since lost major elements, including the marine towers, the headhouse and a majority of the distributing floor due to neglect and weather.
As no plans exist for the 1915 section of the elevator, and with very few plans left in existence for the 1954 addition, the inspection will document several key features, including the foundation, bin wall thickness and dimensions, materials, and concrete strength. The inspection will also document the current structural condition and areas of distress. Results of this inspection will be used to determine what Main Street alternatives are feasible and what the costs associated with each alternative will be. The information will be included in the draft environmental impact statement expected in 2011.
Animation video here.
NOTE: According to ECHDC, the ‘bridges’ depicted in the computer animation are very rough, general approximations of bridge structures and do not in any way represent the final design of the bridge, which could range from historical interpretation of earlier bridges in Buffalo, to something very contemporary.
Main Street Bridge Options