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Allen Street Connector taking shape at new downtown medical school

As the new University at Buffalo Medical School nears completion in downtown Buffalo, one of the related projects is becoming more obvious. That is the tunnel which will eventually run through the building, connecting Allentown and the Fruit Belt.

Looking down Allen Street, you see where the rehabbed Allen-Medical Campus Metro Rail Station temporary pathway is and a large doorway with the East Side visible on the other side. That is to be the new Allen Street Connector, making it easy to travel either way and offering better access to the Metro Rail station.

While originally considered a street extension, the project being given its final design now will be for bikes and pedestrians only. Part of the goal is to make it easier to use that station and not try to find a parking space.

It is all part of a rehab of Allen Street, which may eventually cost $9 million. Common Council President Darius Pridgen said it will link neighborhoods.

"We don't want the medical campus to be an island to itself. It needs to be accessible from both sides of Main Street," Pridgen said. "Obviously, it's on the East Side of Main Street. It needs to be accessible. People need to be able to walk and we need to to be able to get people out and into the businesses, into the restaurants that are around it. It just makes sense, especially with the train station being there. This is just a make sense project."

Final design may be completed at the end of the year, with construction going to bid early next year. Medical Campus Director of Construction and Infrastructure Mark McGovern said this is just the first phase of a much larger project, much of it by the city.

"From North Oak to Washington Street and then it'll move westward from Main Street to I believe about Franklin Street in the first phase of funding," McGovern said. "They're doing the design all the way from Main Street to Wadsworth. They're doing the complete design in one package. The city's trying to come up with some extra money to redo Allen Street the full Main Street to Wadsworth."

The first phase will probably cost around $7.5 million. The length of Allen Street will get a lot of work, especially the sections nearest to Main where the sidewalks and curbs are tired and worn.

A variety of agencies and groups see the connector as important in making it easier for people to move on and off the Medical Campus, to get to the food and retail opportunities along Allen and to improve access to the rehabbed Allen-Medical Campus Metro Rail station.