Tonawanda News

August 29, 2013

Meadow Drive extension to begin -- finally

After years of wrangling, Meadow Drive work to begin this week

By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — A $1. 8 million project that has been on the drawing board since the 1970s will begin in the coming days as North Tonawanda city officials and a contingent of federal and state politicos met Wednesday at the foot of the planned Meadow Drive extension.  

After years of bureaucratic battles, officials lauded the initiative they say will serve as the city’s only true east-west corridor, connecting the growing business district along Erie Avenue to the city’s Mid-City Plaza.   

The 3,300-foot extension of Meadow Drive, which now stops at a dead end near the intersection of Wayne Avenue, will run through a wooded area that is largely made up of wetlands. The project is expected to begin by the end of the week with a completion date set for early December. 

Standing at the foot of the thoroughfare and surrounded by backhoes and plush trees, Mayor Rob Ortt said it was the resilience of his administration along with a team of federal and state politicians that allowed the project to come to fruition. 

“This is a long overdue and much-needed extension that will not only provide short-term construction jobs but will also result in better traffic flow and connect Payne Avenue with our Mid-City business district to Erie Avenue and a budding commercial-industrial corridor,” he said. 

A total of $1.4 million in federal funding was first secured in 2006 under former Rep. Tom Reynolds, now a lobbyist, who was on hand Wednesday for the groundbreaking ceremony. A state funded grant will lend another $269,900 with the city contributed $89,000 in bonded funds. 

In an era when bipartisanship is at a low point, Rep. Brian Higgins, state Sen. George Maziarz and Reynolds, who all attended the press conference, emphasized the importance of the cooperation not only among Democrats and Republicans but also between local, state and federal officials. 

Third Ward Alderman Eric Zadzilka, whose represents the area where the project will take place, said the business growth potential the road extension will create “is huge.” 

“When the project is complete people can actually cut through from Walmart and eat downtown or (go) to to the waterfront in a more direct route,” he said. “I want North Tonawanda to be a destination but we can’t do that if it’s not accessible.” 

He also pointed to the fact that zoning laws were changed in 2010 to halt the encroachment of industrial businesses, found along Erie Avenue, into the residential neighborhoods that surround the extension. The zoning laws were changed to light commercial use that will allow for some business development such as “shops and doctors’ offices but not tire shops and factories.” 

The project was originally slated to cost upwards of $2 million, though the scope of it was scaled back when the planned extension was sized-down from 40 feet wide to 30 feet to shave costs and also make room for green infrastructure required due to the nearby wetland, according to City Engineer Dale Marshall. 

City officials have gone through a trying process of of bringing the Meadow Drive extension together, navigating through state regulators whose impetus was protecting wetlands, securing parcels of privately owned land and spending months fighting the bureaucracy of CSX Railroad to gain easements through the company’s land, a point city Attorney Shawn Nickerson noted on Thursday. 

“I certainly am happy to see this project come to fruition,” he said. 

Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.