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Officials offer assurances in wake of traffic tie-ups in downtown Buffalo

The traffic congestion that trapped motorists at Canalside on Saturday night continues to draw attention, as City of Buffalo and Erie County officials pledged Tuesday to avoid a repeat of the problem.

“Tens of thousands of people coming to downtown Buffalo for multiple events is a very good problem to have,” Mayor Byron W. Brown said. “We will certainly collectively have a plan to address the growing crowds that are coming into downtown Buffalo, to our waterfront, Canalside, the Inner Harbor, other areas of the city.”

The traffic tie-ups formed as crowds descended on downtown for three major events: the World’s Largest Rubber Duck, a Kanye West concert in First Niagara Center and a Bisons game with a Superhero Night theme at Coca-Cola Field. Some motorists reported being stuck in traffic for more than an hour. “Working with other levels of government, the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., we will have strong plans in place to address those issues,” Brown said.

County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said he believes that the downtown area can accommodate massive crowds as long as visitors use alternatives such as parking elsewhere downtown and taking a free aboveground Metro Rail ride to the venue.

In the future, on nights when multiple downtown events draw tens of thousands of visitors, “we’ll be stressing the use of Metro Rail because it’s an easy way to get to the parts of the downtown,” Poloncarz said.

Brown and Poloncarz responded to reporters’ questions about the tie-ups while attending M&T Bank’s 160th-anniversary party at One M&T Plaza.

Brown noted that amid the tie-ups Saturday night, “there were large areas of untapped parking that people could have gone to and had other points of exit from downtown. We will do a better job in the future of notifying people of routes they can take to get into downtown and places where there is parking availability.”

Brown drew a contrast between Buffalo and cities such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, where he said multiple big events can leave motorists stuck in traffic “for two to four hours, sometimes longer.”

“We don’t have that problem in Buffalo,” he said.

“We won’t have that problem in Buffalo. But the residential base continues to grow in downtown Buffalo. Businesses continue to invest and grow in downtown Buffalo. So there will be more traffic, there will be more congestion, but we will have a comprehensive plan to address it.”

email: mglynn@buffnews.com

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