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TRANSIT OFFICIALS FIELD QUESTIONS FROM PUBLIC ON IMPROVEMENT PLAN

The first question that came up after regional transit officials presented the draft version of their Transportation Improvement Program 2006-2010 at a public hearing Thursday evening was about a project that didn't appear on their list.

Metro Rail advocate Seth C. Triggs of Buffalo wanted to know if the plan to return cars to the Main Street pedestrian mall downtown was part of the plan -- a reasonable question, since several schematic drawings of such a proposal were on display in the back of the room.

"The answer is no," said Timothy Trabold, principal analyst for the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council. "It's not on the long-range plan right now. There's national discretionary funds available for projects like this, but we can't go after them until we amend our plan. There's design money earmarked and that's moving forward, but actual money to do anything? No."

"I think it's going to negatively affect light rail service," Triggs remarked, "if the trains have to share the travel lane with cars. I can definitely envision 10-minute delays for shows at Shea's."

Indeed, although the plan involves dozens of highway projects, the crowd of about 20 made many of its comments about alternatives to traveling by car.

Justin Booth of the Wellness Institute for Greater Buffalo and Western New York wondered if funds would be available for paths in the parks if the parks were closed.

Cycling advocate Thomas W. Frank of Williamsville urged the establishment of a greenway infrastructure and spoke about the need for bicycle and pedestrian access along major transportation routes.

Chanyl White of Buffalo wondered how the plan could include highway reconstruction around the Peace Bridge.

"There are so many plans out there," she said. "We don't know where the bridge is going to line up."

"The allocation is federally earmarked," Trabold said. "It's for tying in a 190 interchange with wherever the Peace Bridge lines up. It was originally $25 million and we've been carrying that along for six years.

"The zero dollars in there is a place holder, so we can slip it in without amending the (plan)" when the money actually arrives, he said.

Two more meetings will be held on the plan: Tuesday in the Quality Inn, 7708 Niagara Falls Blvd., Niagara Falls, and next Thursday in Lockport Town Hall, 6560 Dysinger Road. Both start at 6 p.m.

Comments also can be submitted to the Web site at www.gbnrtc.org. The comment period ends May 4.

e-mail: danderson@buffnews.com

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