By Jessica Bagley, The Tonawanda News, link to original post
A project to use old railways as bike trails has been in the works since the 1980s is now scheduled to come to fruition in 2015.
The trails are planned to run from the North Buffalo Greenway to the Town of Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda, but the project has been stalled for years since Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which owns the land, has fought to keep the property. “They said they might want to use it again,” Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony Caruana said. “But it had been thirty years.”
The NFTA told the municipalities they could use the area around the railways instead of right on the rails, but Caruana said that plan could increase the cost of the project by at least 3 times because of the need to level the slopes next to the railroad. “We eventually convinced them with a ten-year lease with a ten-year extension,” Caruana said.
After years of stagnation and the project all but lost, NFTA finally agreed to the deal about a year ago. “If they need it, they will be able to have it back,” Caruana said.
Caruana said the blacktop work on the railways will be easy to reverse if the NFTA chooses to not extend the lease and use the property or railways again. Since the NFTA’s agreement, the Erie County Department of Public Works has been in the design stage of the project, with construction set to start in 2015.
Once the trail is complete, it will have multiple access points and will only be available during daylight hours. Caruana said the Department of Transportation may have to do some work with cross streets, as well. The project is expected to cost over $2 million. Federal funding is providing 80 percent of that figure and the county will provide the rest.
Although the town and city won’t be saddled with any construction costs, they will be responsible for maintenance of the trail, including periodic mowing and trash pickup.
City of Tonawanda Mayor Ron Pilozzi is worried about the city’s maintenance of the trails since the railways go over an Ellicott Creek Bridge — and Pilozzi doesn’t want to assume responsibility for it.
Instead, city officials would like to steer the 12-foot wide bike path down Young Street to the central business district and away from the bridge.