SALAMANCA — City streets here are like a minefield that drivers try in vain to navigate. They have been like that for several years.
The potholes have taken their toll over the years in flat tires and bent rims, broken axles and bent frames.
The New York State Department of Transportation has indicated the streets — Central Avenue, Clinton and Broad streets and a portion of Wildwood Avenue — are in line for repairs that keep getting pushed back.
DOT officials say the more than $90,000 the city of Salamanca receives each year from the state for maintenance — an amount that hasn’t changed in decades — is what is available for the streets that carry state highway traffic.
Mayor Michael “Smitty” Smith has complained to the Regional DOT office in Buffalo as well as to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Albany office. That $90,000 is enough to plow the snow and fill in a few potholes.
The mayor points out that the state highways — mostly Route 219 (Central Avenue) and Route 417 (part of Wildwood Avenue and Broad Street) — are in dire need of milling the existing pavement and laying down new blacktop. That is not the city’s responsibility for less than $100,000 a year, he said.
Cattaraugus County Legislators from Salamanca, Susan Labuhn, the minority leader, and David Koch, both Democrats, have co-sponsored a resolution demanding the state reconstruct Routes 219 and 417 through the city.
Labuhn said the city is circulating a petition to bring more attention to the issue.
“When people who don’t know these roads drive on them, it’s an embarrassment,” she said.
Not only the roadway but the Titus Creek culvert under Broad Street is structurally deficient, Labuhn said. The legislator said her requests have fallen on the same deaf ears as those of the mayor.
“I’ve talked the Frank Cirrello, the regional DOT director,” Labuhn said. “We can’t sit by any longer. It’s an atrocity. It needs to be addressed ASAP.”
Labuhn said motorists trying to avoid Central Avenue have been using Highland Avenue.
“It’s a burden on these neighborhoods,” she said of motorists looking for shortcuts around the worst of the potholes.
No one will say so publicly, but many local officials feel the deferred maintenance and pavement replacement is the result of animosity between the state and Seneca Nation — particularly since the Senecas started withholding casino revenue-sharing funds in 2017.
The mayor said the bad roads pre-dated the Senecas latest decision to stop making payments.
“It’s not for lack of funds,” Labuhn said. “DOT is just waiting for the call (from Albany) to do the work.”
Labuhn said she plans to take the city’s case to new State Senate Transportation Chairman Tim Kennedy of Buffalo. “I’d like to invite him down here for lunch and see these streets firsthand,” she said.
Labuhn and Koch consulted with the mayor before introducing the County Legislature resolution demanding the state take action on the roads through Salamanca.
The resolution will go to the governor.
“It’s getting ridiculous at this point,” Labuhn said. “It’s a liability.”
The resolution introduced by Labuhn and Koch will be discussed in the Public Works and Finance committees on Wednesday. If approved, it would be voted on by the full County Legislature on April 24.
The resolution states the potholes range in size “from a few inches in diameter to massive crater-like potholes.”
Labuhn and Koch’s resolution says, “The state has neglected its duty to properly construct and maintain highways as required by law.” It adds the state’s inaction “places the public in peril and damages vehicles.”
The resolution adds: “The actions of motorists attempting to avoid and dodge such potholes has further imperiled other motorists and pedestrians.”
(Contact reporter Rick Miller at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @RMillerOTH)