The Lewiston Town Board has approved a plan to permit the state Department of Transportation to design a 4.2-mile pedestrian path along River Road from the Lewiston village line to the Village of Youngstown.
"We'll connect a number of things which will be very beneficial to the area," said Douglas S. Ackerman, design squad leader for the state DOT. The path would connect Joseph Davis State Park and the Lewiston Senior Citizens Center, with access to Artpark and Fort Niagara State Park.
The town would be responsible for maintenance, including snow and ice removal, along the portion of the path in the Town of Lewiston. The Porter Town Board voted earlier to maintain its portion of the pathway, from Joseph Davis Park to the Youngstown line.
The proposal for a pedestrian pathway is seen as a compromise between the DOT, which wanted to widen River Road and install 6-foot wide shoulders, and local residents who want to preserve the trees along the road.
A group of residents along River Road formed a homeowners association to protest the state's plan to widen the road. The group also wanted the construction of sidewalks included in plans to resurface the road.
The compromise would provide for 4-foot-wide shoulders, with a pedestrian pathway separated from the shoulder by a grassy strip about 5 feet wide.
Thomas A. Lytle, president of the River Road Residents Association, said he was uncertain about the state's plans for the road.
Lytle said he feared that construction crews would turn River Road into "a freeway or a landing strip . . We still object particularly to the shoulder widths."
"There's still some fighting to be done here yet," he added, asking for "reasonable alternatives." Lytle also said that he knows that the road needs to be repaved. "The issue is partly the trees and its maintaining the character of the road."
Lytle said his group has proposed a paved walkway, and that it would not be satisfied with a stone or gravel path.
Ackerman, the design leader for the DOT, said that although the path's construction is not a done deal, "Our intent is to build one if at all possible . . . It's pretty sure that we'll do it. It's not an absolute."
After some residents along River Road complained that they did not want to lose their trees, Ackerman said the pathway was a concession. "That's why we're compromising from the 6-foot shoulder to the four."
Ackerman said crews will take down only seven healthy trees so they can construct road drainage. However, about a dozen dying trees also will be uprooted.
The roadwork and construction of the pathway would begin after a contract is awarded in February 1999, he said. Ackerman said the county project without the path would cost about $3.4 million. He said construction of a gravel pathway would cost "a few hundred thousand, at least."
River Road is a county road, but the state DOT is doing the engineering work for the improvements.
The Lewiston portion of the road and path would be three miles, and Porter's section would measure 1.2 miles. Ackerman said the pathway would cross the road at times, but about 75 percent of it would be on the west side. The Niagara River can be seen along the roadway.