The Ellison Avenue bridge in Westbury will be shut down for a year beginning next week as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority replaces the structure as part of an improvement plan for the Long Island Rail Road's Main Line Corridor.
The two-lane bridge with pedestrian walkways on both sides was built in 1941, replacing an overpass that dated to the late 19th century. Ellison Avenue is a major north-south road through the village, carrying thousands of cars a week. The road will close beginning April 15.
Over the years, nearly all of the bridge's deck has been reinforced with steel plates and the weight-bearing limits gradually decreased. The state Department of Transportation has found serious deterioration in the structure, according to an MTA news release.
The $17.5 million plan calls for the existing bridge to be demolished and a new one completed by next April.
The MTA maintains the structure of the bridge, which is owned by the village. Though these changes are lauded by most, they don't come without inconveniences.
"Basically everyone's happy it's happening; everybody knows the need for it to be replaced," Westbury Mayor Peter Cavallaro said.
In the past six weeks, Westbury has held meetings to inform the community about the project and to discuss traffic rerouting plans. Though the area is primarily residential, there are several schools in the area: St. Brigid/Our Lady of Hope Regional School and Carle Place Middle and High School.
Daniel Dundara, who manages Giulio Cesare Ristorante on Ellison Avenue, worries that the yearlong closure will take a toll on business.
"It seems like it will take way too long for a relatively small bridge," he said.
Cavallaro said the turnout at community meetings has been robust, with up to 100 people at each. He said that a team of village employees will monitor and improve traffic conditions in the area. The police will increase their patrols and traffic enforcement, Cavallaro said.
Construction will be limited to Mondays through Fridays, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. For the majority of the year, LIRR service will not be disrupted. However, there will be two weekends, in May and October, when LIRR service will be suspended between Mineola and Hicksville, Cavallaro said.
State Sen. Jack Martins (R-Mineola) said he was pleased that the bridge is being replaced.
"I think it's a net positive. It's going to be an inconvenience for a year," Martins said. "But this bridge will stand for 100 years, and it's certainly important to have a bridge that school buses can go over and we don't have to worry about it continuing to disintegrate."
Currently, heavy vehicles such as fire trucks and school buses are not permitted to cross the bridge. The MTA is investing $211 million in improvements along the Main Line Corridor, where trains from five branches converge daily, according to the MTA. Other improvements include renovation at the Hicksville station and drainage for excessive flooding at the Mineola station.