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FEARS OF WIDENING STALL PLAN TO REBUILD MAIN ST.

A proposed $23 million reconstruction of Main Street -- billed as the largest city streets project in the next five years -- stalled Tuesday when Common Council members demanded assurances the state will not try to widen the street beyond its current six lanes.

The state and federal governments would pay 94 percent of a complete reconstruction, including sidewalks and street lighting, from the Scajaquada Expressway to Bailey Avenue. The project would be done in 2001.

City Engineer Daniel Kreuz said he believes the state will not seek to widen Main beyond six lanes. The Council, however, was willing to approve hiring a design consultant, as Kreuz and the state requested, only if it received assurances the state will not widen Main, as it did with Niagara Falls Boulevard bordering the towns of Amherst and Tonawanda.

Council Member at Large Charley H. Fisher III said two of three proposals for Main call for a widening.

"University Heights is not happy with this project," Fisher said. "Our understanding is the speed limit may be raised to 45 mph."

Fisher said Buffalo lawmakers should not give priority to convenience of drivers passing through the city.

"It's not as if we haven't made stupid decisions like this before," he said.

Kreuz also raised a concern that the Council's action could halt the project.

"We know they speak with forked tongues sometimes," Council President James W. Pitts said.

But Delaware District representatives working on a preliminary committee with the state are confident the street will not be widened, Delaware Council Member Alfred T. Coppola said.

Public Works Commissioner Joseph N. Giambra played down concerns that the state might want to widen the street, emphasizing that project guidelines require that no decision be made until the conclusion of a review and design process. "It's not our intent to realign Main Street," he said. "It's not our intent to widen it."

The project, as described by Giambra, would provide a new road base, curbs, electrical conduits, street lighting and sidewalks.

"We will replace sewer and water mains if they need to be replaced," he said, adding that at no time will the street be completely closed to traffic.

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