Tonawanda News

The City

May 29, 2014

Rails to Trails project back on track

Tonawanda News — After decades of work and uncertainty, plans to turn abandoned railroad beds into a four-mile bike path are finally wrapping up and construction will likely begin next year. 

“I didn’t know if this would ever happen,” City of Tonawanda Council President Carleton Zeisz said. “The first document I have about this project is from 1994.” 

Another step in the long process was completed last week, when the City of Tonawanda and Town of Tonawanda both passed agreements with Erie County and the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, agreeing to maintain the pedestrian and bike path once it is finished. 

The project was first discussed in the 1980s, but was delayed for years as the NFTA, which owns the rail beds, fought to keep the land. Eventually, the NFTA agreed to a 10-year-lease with a 10-year extension, and the project was back on track. 

Although there are still some administrative steps that need to be taken, Erie County Project Manager Brian Rose said his department has submitted detailed plans for the path and that bids for the project will likely go out in the fall. 

“We’ve gotten comments back and are working on addressing them,” he said. “We’re not anticipating any hiccups and we’re on our way to wrapping up the design phase.” 

The project plans detail a 12-foot wide path on the abandoned rail bed starting at Kenmore Avenue, 900 feet west of Englewood Avenue. The trail will then extend northwest to Sheridan Drive. 

The second trail segment will then begin approximately 900 feet west at the Belmont Avenue and Sheridan Drive intersection, and continue north along Belmont Avenue. The trail will then meet the rail bed again at Colvin Boulevard.

From Colvin, the trail proceeds north under I-290 and into the City of Tonawanda, where it will end at State Street. The county and city are working on a separate funding application to take the path to Fillmore Avenue and East Niagara Street, Rose said. 

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