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A center median planted with trees could be installed on Main Street and East Avenue within three years, Mayor Kenneth D. Swan said Tuesday after a public hearing on the city's proposed new comprehensive plan.

About 30 persons, which Swan called a "disappointing" turnout, attended the City Hall presentation by four consultants. Community Development Director William J. Evert said the city has spent $70,000 on the planning effort, the first since 1970.

Swan said after another public meeting at 8 a.m. Thursday in the Best Western Lockport Inn, 515 South Transit St., the plan will be in the hands of the Common Council for action sometime in May.

One of the speakers, Ellen Nutter of Nutter Associates of Rochester, mentioned during her talk that the city has already sought funding for the Main Street-East Avenue median from the Big Bridge to Lockport Memorial Hospital.

Swan said it did so at a recent meeting of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Committee, which discussed repaving Routes 78 and 31 through the city in stages over a three-year period.

Swan said he instructed city Director of Engineering Allan R. Rutter to attend and see if state money could be obtained for reconstruction of Main Street along the lines of the vision in the comprehensive plan.

Main Street is not part of a state route, although it runs straight into East Avenue, which is part of Route 31.

If the money comes through, Swan said the streets would be switched from four rather narrow lanes to two wider lanes, with the trees in the middle, and left-turn lanes at each intersection interrupting the median. Parallel parking at curbside would be maintained. The total width of the streets would be unchanged.

"I think this would be an ideal way to make the traffic flow better," the mayor said.

Meanwhile, the presentation on the comprehensive plan, illustrated with slides, repeated much of the talk the Council heard last Wednesday. The consultants emphasized greenery wherever possible. In residential areas, the plan advocates trees between the curb and the sidewalk for all new housing, along with uniform setback distances.

Landscape architect Kathy Wolf of Ithaca touted trails along the canal banks, and a new Escarpment Trail from the locks along Eighteenmile Creek through Gulf Wilderness and Rotary Parks and over the former city landfill.

Ms. Nutter said mixed use, bringing business to neighborhoods with a residential look, would be a good way for Lockport to have economic development while preserving its "small-town character."

Ms. Nutter said whatever is built on the vacant South Block on Main Street should be built right up to the sidewalk, in a "traditional Lockport design," instead of being set well back, as were some of the projects built in the 1970s after urban renewal.

Michael Metzger of McIntosh and McIntosh, an engineering firm, said the city has more than 3,000 parking spaces downtown, and in some areas has "an excess of parking."

He said urban renewal commitments of certain areas for parking expire in 2002, and the city ought to consider using some of the spots for development instead.

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