Light outage on expressway is a bigger problem than first thought

An outage of the street lights on the Kensington Expressway has plagued town highway crews for over a year. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
An outage of the street lights on the Kensington Expressway has plagued town highway crews for over a year. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – In an ongoing effort to fix a street light outage along the Kensington Expressway, WGRZ-TV aired a report Monday night asking Town of Cheektowaga Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner when the issue would be fixed.

“It’s a process that’s really out of my hands.  I’d love just to take it over and go up there and fix everything but you just can’t,” Mark Wegner told the Cheektowaga Chronicle Tuesday morning.

Many of the street lights along the highway have been out since last year.  Mr. Wegner says its a process to figure out what the problem is, and attempt to fix it.  After coordinating with the NYSDOT to shut down the highway, town highway crews replaced the light bulbs – an initial cost-effective solution to remediate the problem. 

It didn’t work however and crews recently discovered that the power is severed in two places under the expressway.  “They’re signal techs, not electricians,” Mr. Wegner said of his crews.

He says that the town is now in the process of bidding out the work to fix the problem and hopefully the town council can award the bid on November 14th at their next board meeting.

“Once we hire them I will coordinate with the state DOT to go up there.  They’ll close the road down for us, we’ll get the three lights that have to go back up and then this company will replace the wire,” said Mr. Wegner.

In a WGRZ-TV “Holding People in Power Accountable” story Monday evening, reporter Claudine Ewing asked Mr. Wegner when the lights would be fixed.  It is a follow-up story the news station has been covering during each of the four Nielsen ratings periods this year.

“We did everything I said we were going to do,” said Mr. Wegner.  “We went up there, but she thinks just because a light bulb goes out you can go up there and change it.  It doesn’t work that way.  You can only shut the 33 down according to a list – when you can shut down this lane, when you can shut down that lane – you just can’t go up there and shut it down like she thinks.  (The DOT) is busy.  They’re not going to put their guys on overtime so that we can go up there and change a light bulb.”

One option the town looked at was removing the lights altogether.  Mr. Wegner says the lights from Interstate 90 to the airport were removed around 20 years ago.

“There are no lights on the Thruway, there are no lights on the 400, and there are no lights on the other half of the 33, so why do we have to have them?” Mr. Wegner said.

The Cheektowaga Police Department is responsible for patrolling the entire length of the Kensington Expressway in our town and asked that the lights remain out of safety concerns according to Mr. Wegner.

He says the project should be completed by the end of the year.

“I’m hoping that on the 14th (the town) will have a contractor and then we’ll absolutely have it done by the end of the year,” added Mr. Wegner.