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'Rails to Trails' project to further links to Tonawandas, Buffalo

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

It used to be a rail line. When work on a $2.6 million project is done by late November, it will be the latest link in a longer network of pathway that can allow bicyclists and pedestrians a clear route to Buffalo.

Known as 'Tonawanda Rails to Trails,' the four-mile span under construction in the Town of Tonawanda will span from Kenmore Avenue at the town's border with Buffalo to State Street in the City of Tonawanda. At its south end, the trail will connect with North Buffalo Rails to Trails, while at the north end it will link to another trail in development, spanning from State Street to East Niagara Street and the Erie Canalway Trail.

"What this project does, in so many ways, is it connects a suburban community to an urban community, providing access and opportunity not just to vehicular traffic - as we've done throughout Erie County - but for bicyclists and pedestrians as well," said Erie County Legislator Peter Savage, one of many elected officials who gathered off Brighton Road near Colvin for a Wednesday news conference.

Opening access for alternative travelers is something leaders believe can spark some new business, and create new customers who might stop to get something to eat, or shop for something they can easily carry while riding.

"It'll be numerous opportunities for people, all along Western New York and all along the bike paths to be able to hop on, get off at a lot of the communities, to be able to bring some much-needed business to those communities," said City of Tonawanda Mayor Rick Davis.

In the meantime, Brighton Road was sporting a new surface, which is still being put down by road crews. That raised the question whether Erie County could do more to rebuild or at least repaint its roadways to create shared access for cars and bikes. County Executive Mark Poloncarz told reporters that while a streets policy analysis is already underway, some roads might not be able to expand for purposes of opening bike lanes.

"If you have a road that is made for vehicles one-way each way, if you don't have the extra room to do it like they did on Delaware Avenue where they took out a lane... we have to first off examine what the size of the road is, as well as the safety factors," Poloncarz said.

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