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Elmira’s 5 Bridges … An Update

Lake Street Bridge conceptual design (courtesy Labella / TWLA)

I just spent entirely too long trying to come up with an interesting title for this blog post. It didn’t happen. But hopefully the information below will be helpful for you, reader friends!

We have been fortunate to receive rehabilitation funding for all five of our river crossings. One of them – the Clemens Center Parkway Bridge – is complete, and the other four projects are coming up. Below is an overview, moving from west to east. (Please note that while the dates may change, this information is current as of February 2019.)

The City will rehabilitate the Walnut Street Bridge thanks to a BRIDGE NY grant, with an estimated start date of July 2019. In early July, closures will begin, but the project will maintain two-way vehicular and pedestrian traffic until 2020 (Date TBD), when the bridge closes entirely for construction.

The City will begin rehabilitation of the Main Street Bridge in 2021. The project will repair the bridge decay and enhance public safety while preserving the structure for another 20 to 30 years.

The Lake Street Bridge, closed to all traffic in 2011 due to structural deficiencies, will be open for pedestrian and bicycle use from March—June 2019, while the Madison Avenue Bridge (below) undergoes rehabilitation. After Madison re-opens, Lake Street will undergo its own rehabilitation as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI). The bridge will be a linear park connecting the City’s downtown and south side, while providing a new community gathering space and link to amenities such as Brand Park and the Lackawanna Rail Trail. State and federal programs, with cooperation from local utilities, are fully funding the project. Anticipated dates of construction are August 2019 through 2020, although some work will begin this spring. Note: the graphic above is a preliminary design concept from the public meeting and is subject to modifications during final design.

Finally, the Madison Avenue Bridge will undergo its rehab (also with BRIDGE NY funding) starting this week. On February 26, the city will close one lane of the bridge in order to add communication lines in advance of the rehabilitation. The project will maintain two-way traffic until mid-March when the bridge will close until late June. As stated above, the Lake Street Bridge will be the alternate route for pedestrians and bicyclists while Madison is fully closed to traffic.

Thank you to our pals at Chemung County Department of Public Works for this information!

Elmiraland is a website, blog, and social media presence dedicated to everything Elmira. Taking time to enjoy what’s around us; always looking forward to what’s next!

Complete Street Grid

Chemung County Complete Streets

A “complete street” refers to the inclusive method of improving roads and the infrastructure around them for all users. This means improving access for motorists, bicyclists, pedestrians and those who utilize public transportation. Complete streets are equitable, allowing adults, children, the elderly and the disabled to use road and sidewalks more safely.

Governor Andrew Cuomo passed the Complete Streets Act on August 13, 2011. Since that time, more than 300 New York State municipalities have passed complete streets laws and policies at the county, city, town and village levels. Click here for a list of all municipalities in NYS that have adopted Complete Streets policies.

How is this relevant to Elmiraland, you might ask? The City Council adopted a Complete Streets policy in June 2018, effectively stating the local commitment to a more equitable use of roadways. Going forward, this policy may help the City secure additional funding for the design and construction of safer streets and a network of paths for bicycles and pedestrians. (View the Star Gazette article here).

What makes a street “complete”?

Complete Street Grid

Various methods and investments in infrastructure make up a complete street. These may include:

  1. Visible and safe sidewalks and paths
  2. Distinguishable bicycle lanes
  3. Clear signage
  4. Well-maintained crosswalks
  5. Traffic calming methods such as medians or curb bump-outs
  6. On-street parking
  7. Bicycle infrastructure
  8. Bus lanes

These solutions can range in price (from low-cost to high) and implementation (some municipalities could paint bike lanes on their streets in a few days while other strategies such as dedicated cycle tracks or light rail could be years in the making.) The one thing all of these characteristics have in common is that they improve safety for all users.

Why do we need complete streets in Chemung County?

To increase safety.

Bicycling and walking through busy areas can be intimidating, especially since American planners and engineers a generation ago designed most cities and roads to cater to cars. As a result, many cities and neighborhoods are not particularly pedestrian- or bike-friendly. Within Elmira, the city is working on several projects downtown to slow traffic, install bike lanes and upgrade sidewalks; for example, the pending improvement of West Water Street is an example of a complete streets project.

To increase social engagement.

Many stakeholders are working locally to improve our older mixed-use neighborhoods while creating a more vibrant downtown with a variety of housing types and attractive amenities to attract and retain residents. Making the streets more comfortable for all users and providing them with opportunities to interact with one another will help make Elmira a more attractive place to live and visit!

To increase connectivity and equity.

Complete streets are responsible for more than improving travel infrastructure. Complete streets work to enhance connectivity, filling gaps within low-access communities (those that may currently lack sidewalks, bike lanes or transit options). Like all communities, the municipalities within Chemung County can benefit from social, economic and environmental goals that complete streets help to promote. The strategies mentioned above help to foster strong communities and economies.


Complete Streets provide a means for social interaction between residents and business owners who end up sharing public spaces more frequently. The City of Elmira and Chemung County are already promoting some complete streets strategies through implementation of the City of Elmira Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI) strategies.


When people feel comfortable walking, biking, and parking in commercial areas, they are able to spend more time contributing into the local economy.


Users of local infrastructure will reduce greenhouse gas emissions (primarily through auto-related pollution) when public transportation, biking, or walking is safe and comfortable.

For communities to be livable, their public spaces should make everyone feel welcome. Photo:

Elmiraland is a website, blog, and social media presence dedicated to everything Elmira. Taking time to enjoy what’s around us; always looking forward to what’s next!