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How can downtown's Main Street be improved?

Mike Desmond
Thursday's meeting was to gather ideas on what should happen along Main Street, between Ferry and Goodell streets.

Buffalo officials say another section of Main Street looks more than a little tired, worn and in need of significant work. A public meeting at Health Sciences Charter School Thursday was told there might be a $20 million rehab between Ferry and Goodell streets.

The meeting was more to talk about what is needed, as the plan will not be ready for a year, with construction starting in 2021.

There was significant representation from the bicycle community. Henry Raess said there is a lot of varied traffic with a subway underneath.

"There's high volumes of traffic. It's a really intense corridor. It's right in the middle of the city and a lot of people use it for buses, train, it's a transportation corridor right in the middle of the city," Raess said. "There's a lot of space to widen sidewalks, to add bike lanes, to add amenities for all road users."

GoBike Buffalo Executive Director Justin Booth said a State Department of Transportation rulebook would allow major changes.

Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News

"Fifteen-thousand vehicles a day or less, you can reduce the number of lanes on the street, similar to what they did on Delaware Avenue, similar to what is happening in the construction on Niagara Street. So it's very easy for the city," Booth said. "We've overbuilt our city for a population that never came and so we have the ability to minimize the total number of lanes, and that gives us a lot of space left over to re-utilize for wider pedestrian access, for better bicycle access."

Public Works Commissioner Michael Finn said the new work will better help Metro Rail riders make it home. There are three stations in that one-mile section of Main.

"What we're looking to do, really, is to help connect people better with the subway stations," Finn said, "because ultimately, most people don't get dropped off directly at a station. They have to go from a station to their home and we're looking to make that last mile a better experience for residents."

Finn said there will be work on lighting, trees and sidewalks. There will also be some traffic calming to ensure smooth and safe passage. The Complete Streets package might call for bike lanes physically separated from car traffic on the generally wide section of Main.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.