$2.6 million, four-mile Erie County investment creates arterial pathway linking Tonawandas to Buffalo
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined Wednesday by Erie County Legislator Peter Savage (3rd District), Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony Caruana, Mayor of the City of Tonawanda Rick Davis, elected officials, representatives of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and New York State Department of Transportation, and residents to review the "Tonawanda Rails to Trails" project, a four-mile-long connecting trail that runs from Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda to State Street in the City of Tonawanda. The project connects at the south end with the City of Buffalo's North Buffalo Rails to Trails and on the north end to another project that is in the design phase, the Tonawanda Rails to Trails extension, which will go from State Street in the City of Tonawanda to East Niagara Street and the Erie Canalway Trail.
"This project is an investment in our community that promotes connectivity between neighborhoods and allows residents from all over the trail area to explore Erie County without having to get into a car. Residents can now traverse communities by biking, jogging or walking, and enjoy access to the waterfront all the way from the City of Tonawanda to the City of Buffalo," Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said. "The Rails to Trails concept embraces smart growth principles, an idea I discussed in my 'Initiatives for a Smart Economy' address, by promoting enhanced walkability and protecting open spaces while reinvesting in established neighborhoods. This is a great community connector and, on behalf of all Erie County residents, I want to thank all of our partners who assisted on this project."
Savage added, "As a representative of the Town of Tonawanda and the City of Buffalo, I am excited that the multimillion-dollar Tonawanda Rails to Trails project is underway. This transformational project connects our suburban and city communities, and offers the public a unique opportunity to observe and travel through Tonawanda in a whole new way."
Work on the trail, a 12-foot wide asphalt pathway with various access points and small parking areas at each end, is expected to be complete by Nov. 30. The trail's construction replaces an old, disused railroad bed that had bisected the community. The $2.6 million project also includes a HAWK pedestrian crossing at Sheridan Drive, one of the streets crossed by the trail.
"We are extremely happy to finally see the rails to trails project come to fruition," Caruana said. "These plans were put on hold for years, successfully overcoming many obstacles. The Rails to Trails project connects the Town of Tonawanda to Buffalo and the City of Tonawanda. The trails design will link town spots with easy and, more importantly, safe walking and biking opportunities, encouraging recreation and alternative modes of transportation. We are all excited about the vast potential of this project."
Davis said, "After many years, I'm very happy to see this project finally come to fruition. Anytime we can afford the residents of the City of Tonawanda more outdoor recreational opportunities it's a good thing."
The Tonawanda Rails to Trails extension project will proceed north from the current project's terminus at State Street in the City of Tonawanda until it intersects Fillmore Avenue. The trail will then proceed north down Fillmore until it hits East Niagara Street and the Erie Canalway Trail. The portion of the trail from State Street (after crossing Young Street) to Fillmore will be off road and will cross Ellicott Creek via the old railroad bridge. At the north end of the bridge the trail will pass by and connect to Eastern Park. Once the trail hits Fillmore, pedestrians will be accommodated via sidewalk improvements and bicyclists will be accommodated in the roadway through re-paving, re-striping and lane sharing markings.
In the photos: heavy machinery creating the "Rails to Trails" project near Brighton Avenue; in a group photo, from left, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz is joined by Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony Caruana, Erie County Legislator Peter Savage and Town of Tonawanda Council members Joseph Emminger and Dan Crangle to inspect the developing project.