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Parkway obstacle course may soon be less of a problem Some cones, barrels are to be removed after resurfacing of section

Motorists who drive regularly on the Robert Moses Parkway have become accustomed to maneuvering near orange cones and barrels as they travel the northern section between Niagara Falls and Lewiston.

Some, but not all, of those obstacles could soon disappear.

The state Department of Transportation will begin a maintenance project to resurface a section of the parkway between Main Street in Niagara Falls and Devil's Hole State Park later this month. Once that work is complete, the agency will remove cones and barrels in that section, said Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, D-Lewiston.

"I can't tell you the number of people that have talked to me over the years -- especially this year, it kind of ratcheted up -- how tired they are of seeing these things," DelMonte said. "And I can't blame them."

But cones and barrels that have blocked off a portion of the parkway near the New York Power Authority's Robert Moses Niagara Power Plant will remain for now.

DelMonte said a meeting with local leaders and DOT Commissioner Astrid C. Glynn last month included a discussion over why cones and barrels have been on the parkway for so long.

Temporary traffic barriers were placed on the parkway in September 2001 for a $1 million trial run to close two lanes of the parkway between what is now the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and Devil's Hole State Park to create a hiking-biking trail.

Additional cones and barrels were placed on the parkway when the Power Authority began work to refurbish its Niagara power plant in 2004. That project -- which includes exterior concrete work and other remediation -- requires that traffic on the parkway near the facility be rerouted, said Power Authority spokesman Michael Saltzman.

"We're sensitive to the community concerns, and we regret any inconvenience to motorists," Saltzman said Monday. "We're proceeding as quickly as we can to complete this work, but as I said to you before, the merging of the traffic lanes is necessary for the safety of those completing those repairs."

The types of barriers used to merge traffic on the parkway comply with DOT specifications, Saltzman said.

DelMonte said DOT and Power Authority representatives said during the meeting that they would review whether they can put up a different type of barrier as repairs are done to the power plant. She said she was told that repairs to the power plant are expected to continue until 2012.

Saltzman could not confirm that the Power Authority is considering using a different type of barrier but said the agency will continue to work with the DOT and the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to try to "address any inconvenience."

DelMonte said the DOT's resurfacing project will not affect a plan to begin a multiagency process next year to determine the future of the parkway, an issue that has divided residents for a decade.

While some Niagara County residents want to see the parkway removed completely, or trimmed from four lanes to two in some sections, others want it to remain.

Angela Berti, a regional state parks spokeswoman, said the office expects to begin a scoping process next year so it can draw up a plan for the future of the parkway. That process will involve a series of public meetings.

"The work that they're doing now is just to maintain the integrity of the roadway," Berti said.

Niagara Falls officials -- who support removing the parkway between Main Street and Findlay Drive -- have expressed concern about spending money to maintain a road that the city wants to remove.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said that during a regional transportation planning meeting this past summer, he cast a veto against using federal transportation money to resurface that section of the parkway. He expressed concern that the use of those funds would be "putting money down a rathole."

"Their big argument is safety -- that even if it's there for a short period of time, it has to be safe," Dyster said. "There's no doubt, the Robert Moses, as it is now, is a wreck."

The DOT is now using other maintenance funds for the resurfacing project, Dyster said.

Regional DOT spokeswoman Susan Surdej did not immediately respond to questions about the project Monday.


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