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Construction on Pearl Street aims to make for easier trip to waterfront

City Hall is making it a little easier to drive, bike – or even walk – to the waterfront.

The city has begun a $2.5 million project aimed at converting a section of Pearl Street – from Tupper Avenue to the Upper Terrace – to a two-way street. By the time the project is completed in the spring of 2016, the roadway will allow cars in both directions, have dedicated bike lanes, and be more welcoming to pedestrians, officials said.

“This will make is easier to get to the city’s waterfront,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said Friday at a press conference held at the corner of Peal and Seneca streets.

The project is being funded with $1.5 million from the city and a $1 million state grant.

Preparatory work began in recent weeks, and crews were at the scene Friday. The section of Pearl Street being reconstructed comes off of the Goodell to Tupper streets curve, which will remain one-way. The new two-way section of the street joins with the Upper Terrace to Commercial Street section of Pearl, which is currently two-way.

The project will allow motorists to more easily drive to and from the waterfront via Pearl Street.

Pearl Street will remain open during construction, and is intended to have limited impact on Pearl Street businesses during construction, said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.

The road currently has two lanes of traffic, both heading south, as well as parking on both sides of the street.

When the project is completed, it will be one lane in each direction, and still have parking on both sides of the steet, said city engineer Michael J.Finn.

There will also be dedicated bicycle lanes, Stepniak said. The car lanes will be somewhat more narrow than they currently are, Stepniak said. The result of the narrower vehicle lanes, and creation of bicycle lanes, will effectively slow traffic down, making the roadway more accommodating to pedestrians, Stepniak said.

As part of the project, the city is also updating the handicapped-accessible curve cuts.

“I makes it more pedestrian-friendly,” said state Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, who also attended the press conference.

Beyond improving waterfront access, Brown said he believes the Pearl Street reconstruction will further invigorate Pearl Street, attracting more investment to the area. Infrastructure improvements such as this, Brown said, encourage economic development.