The US Department of Transportation will fund $18M to return automotive traffic to lower Main Street at Canalside, as part of the ongoing “Cars Sharing Main Street” project.
“The growth in the Theatre District demonstrates that returning cars to Main Street is also returning retail to Main Street. With this federal funding we provide greater access to Canalside which will strengthen the success…”, said Congressman Brian Higgins. Congressman Higgins had supported Buffalo’s application for the funding, along with the Mayor and a number of other prominent local politicians at the State and Federal level.
The grant will work specifically to return automotive traffic to lower Main Street, in the span from Exchange Street to Scott Street. A new Metro Rail crossover will be created between Scott and Perry streets as part of the redevelopment to accommodate new traffic patterns. The construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 and be completed inside of 18 months.
The total cost of this part of the project totals $22.5M, with state and local governments contributing the difference. With this award, the total contributed by the feds to the “Cars Sharing Main Street” project totals over $43M to date.
It is hoped that this improved road access to lower Main Street area will drive more traffic to Canalside and the surrounding businesses, reversing the collateral damage inflicted by the decision to close a large section of Main to vehicular traffic 30 years ago. Instead of turning the area into a vibrant pedestrian mall, as urban planners at the time had hoped, it starved the area of customers. This had the effect of slowly decimating surrounding businesses, leading to rows of empty storefronts along both sides of the street. The recent opening of the Theatre District of Main Street to automotive traffic has had an overwhelmingly positive effect and in many ways serves as a model for this next phase. In consolidating pedestrian, rail, bicycle and automotive traffic along that stretch last year, the area has quickly returned to being a hub of activity.
The “Cars Sharing Main Street” project received its first allotment of funding in 2005, targeting the 500, 600 and 700 blocks of Main Street with work beginning in 2008. The City of Buffalo had applied for $28M of funding for the project in 2014, but was turned down. It is not yet known if or when the last remaining section of the street which remains closed to automotive traffic will be converted.
In a related move, the NFTA recently announced the “Canalside & Cobblestone Access Enhancement Study” to consider options for extending Metro Rail to the DL&W Terminal.