Tonawanda News — A thick forest has given way to the beginnings of a rumbling roadway, as dump trucks, backhoes and cranes continue to barrel through the future Meadow Drive extension.
North Tonawanda City Engineer Dale Marshall said the project is ahead of schedule, with much of the forest now “cleared and grubbed” an initial foundation largely laid down along a 3,300-foot stretch between Wayne and Erie avenues.
The process was long-stalled as the city navigated through difficult bureaucratic terrain of state and federal agencies and acquiring privately owned land. It finally launched in early September.
But with concept now etching toward reality and a potential completion date of late November, talks are starting to swirl around development projects that may, eventually, begin along the belt of roadway that is being lauded by city officials as the only true east-west corridor linking the city’s commercial district in the Mid-City Plaza to Erie Avenue.
While much of the surrounding area is still protected by state and federal wetland laws, there are viable options for development. City officials had initially downplayed those aspects as they worked bringing the project to fruition.
It received $1.4 million in federal funding in 2006.
Council President Rich Andres said the majority of ideas circulating are focused on the south side of the road extension, with many of the protected wetlands to the north. He added that development companies have owned the parcels since the 1970s, when a water line was installed through the wooded area.
Over time, as the land stayed untouched, the trees grew back and interest waned. But the idea of brining in residential homes and business along the stretch has begun to re-emerge.
One concept that has been loosely discussed is the installation of a rails to trails bicycle path that may be able to connect the Wurlitzer Park neighborhood with North Tonawanda’s downtown, though many of the parcels along the former CSX-owned rail line have been purchased by private entities, making the idea more challenging, Andres said.