By Adrienne Boudreau:
The Allen Street Extension Project presented current conditions to residents and community members Wednesday evening at the first public meeting in order to receive feedback and suggestions from those already living in the neighborhood.
The most emphasized issues facing the project from community feedback include parking and pedestrian/cyclist safety. 62 percent of those surveyed so far said parking on Allen Street is an issue, according to Tanya Mooza Zwahlen, public outreach coordinator.
Many community members echoed that opinion in the post-meeting break out groups, where small groups each met with a project advisor, and as one person pointed out, the aesthetics of the parking that is available is outdated and broken down.
“The small section of parking between Days Park and Wadsworth needs to be redesigned, I don’t think anyone has even thought about it since the ‘70’s, it needs to be improved but not removed,” said Mary Simpson, Days Park resident.
The bend at Allen and Wadsworth Streets was also later cited as a dangerous place for pedestrians and cyclists, which anyone who has ever attempted the crossing can probably understand.
84 percent agreed that there is a need for better pedestrian or bicycle accommodations on the street, according to the project’s survey, which is available online for two more weeks and closes on February 26.
Some side street residents seemed skeptical the project will actually improve their neighborhood since the project focuses on Allen Street only, but as of now the possibility of direct work on adjoining side streets is up in the air, said Zwahlen. “It is intended to be a changing plan to evolve to meet the needs of the community. So even if we end up not directly working on side streets it should have a run-off effect,” she said.
The project, 80 percent of it federally funded, and 20 percent funded by the City of Buffalo, will undergo eight months of intense public involvement opportunities before eventually hitting a public hearing in October of this year. Construction is estimated to start in early March 2015.
There will be three more design input meetings before any final decisions are made, where residents, business owners and other community members can give feedback to the engineers and designers.
The meeting only concerned Phase B of the project, which focuses on Allen Street streetscape and infrastructure improvements to increase mobility and improve safety in the area. Phase A of the project focuses on the construction of a pedestrian and bicycle path between Washington and Oak Street in the Buffalo-Niagara Medical Campus that leads to “front-door” of the medical campus at the intersection of Allen and Main Street.
John Bidell, project engineer for the City of Buffalo Department of Public Works, said in his introduction, improvements to Allen Street are in response to the projected 17,000 employees on the Medical Campus by 2016 who will depend on public transport and pedestrian and bicycling advancements around Allentown.
The City of Buffalo is working with Highland Planning, Halvorson Design Partnership, Ravi Engineering and RK Hite & Co. to design the project. It is being overseen by a Technical Advisory Committee.
You can see more background on the meeting here.
Lead image: Tanya Mooza Zwahlen, public outreach coordinator for the Allen Street Extension Project, talks with community members on what they’d like to see happen on Allen Street.