Tonawanda News — A bike trail project that has been in the works since the 1980s is still in the development stages, but officials have reported some recent progress.
If completed, Rails for Trails will convert old railroad tracks to bike paths — starting in the City of Buffalo, going through the town and ending in the city.
City Engineer Jason LaMonaco recently met with Brian Rose, of the Erie County Department of Public Works, to discuss the project.
The original plan for the trails includes bikers going over an Ellicott Creek bridge in Tonawanda, but LaMonaco is working to reroute the course so the city doesn’t have to assume responsibility for the maintenance of the bridge.
Instead, Rose and LaMonaco are looking at two alternative routes that would send bikers down Young Street and end at the city’s business district, or going over the Freemont Street bridge and onto Fillmore Avenue.
“We were just talking, nothing has been laid out,” LaMonaco said.
Council members were in favor of the second option at Tuesday night’s board meeting.
“That is the safer option, and there is not as much traffic,” Councilman Blake Boyle said.
But after decades of discussion, council member are skeptical as to whether the project will ever come to fruition.
The plans were stalled for years while the owner of the railroads, Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, fought to keep the land.
According to Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony Caruana, the NFTA wanted to be able to use the railroads again in the future. Eventually, they agreed to a ten-year lease with a ten-year extension.
If the NFTA does want the land back, the blacktop on the railroads can easily be reversed if NFTA chooses not to extend the lease.
Construction is set to begin in 2015 and the project will cost $2 million. Federal funding is providing 80 percent of that figure and the county will provide the rest.
Although the municipality won’t be saddled with any construction costs, they will be responsible for maintenance of the trail, including mowing and trash pickup.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.