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Falls' worst streets won't get stimulus aid Other funding sought for costliest projects

Don't look for the worst city streets to be among those to be resurfaced with $3.6 million in federal stimulus funds.

They're not there.

A list of nine mill and overlay street projects submitted by Mayor Paul A. Dyster's administration for funding under economic stimulus legislation signed last week by President Obama will cover some bumpy territory. The streets include sections of Main Street, Packard Road and Pine Avenue.

But not Buffalo Avenue -- a street so riddled in places people avoid driving on it. Or a jarring section of Pine Avenue near St. Joseph Cemetery and the Packard Court housing complex.

The list also does not include blocks of 10th Street outside Niagara Falls Memorial Medical Center that are so bad the mayor recently asked residents to avoid driving on them.

"We've had a lot of calls saying, 'These aren't the nine worst roads in the city,' " Dyster said Wednesday. "No, they're not."

So why didn't the most treacherous make the list?

It comes down to the amount of money available and a bit of transportation funding tactics.

"There's a lot of strategy in what you do using what money in order to maximize it," said Thomas J. DeSantis, the city's senior planner.

The Falls in recent years has drawn primarily from three pots of money to pay for road work: federal transportation funds, state street and highway improvement dollars and local casino revenue.

Each year, city leaders have to choose projects from a long list of streets that need repairs or reconstruction work with limited dollars.

To get federal funding, large projects -- such as reconstructing Buffalo Avenue or Lewiston Road -- must go through the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council.

Projects on the regional transportation council's Transportation Improvement Program list can take five to seven years to get funded. But those that make it to the top of the list are almost entirely paid for with federal funds.

That means projects that the city couldn't otherwise afford can be completed. All phases of reconstructing Buffalo Avenue, for example, are expected to cost more than $20 million, Dyster said.

The $3.6 million in federal stimulus dollars the city is slated to receive isn't enough for those big reconstruction projects.

The city also ruled out using the stimulus funds for temporary repairs on such big jobs so that they wouldn't be disqualified from receiving future federal transportation funds.

Roads resurfaced with federal stimulus money, Dyster said, would have to wait 10 years to become eligible for other federal dollars doled out through the regional transportation council's Transportation Improvement Program.

A mill and overlay on some streets -- such as Pine Avenue outside St. Joseph Cemetery -- won't last that 10 years, DeSantis said.

City officials say they hope to get that section of Pine Avenue put on the regional transportation funding list and are looking at repairing it through in-house projects in the meantime, Dyster said.

Tenth Street outside Memorial hospital also is on the list of Transportation Improvement Program projects, and city officials are hoping to move it up to begin this year, Dyster said.

Dyster said the city also plans to also use a new truck this summer work on the commercial sections of Buffalo Avenue in LaSalle as the street waits for federal funding for a total reconstruction.

Councilman Sam Fruscione said he would be satisfied with working on LaSalle portions of Buffalo Avenue in-house.

Earlier this week, he had called for removing the stretch of Pine Avenue between Main Street and Portage Road from the stimulus list to do the Buffalo Avenue work instead.

Here's the list of nine streets schedule for mill and overlay projects financed by the $3.6 million federal stimulus money:

*24th Street from Ontario Avenue to Pine Avenue.

*56th Street from Buffalo Avenue to Stephenson Avenue.

*11th Street from Lockport Street to Ontario Avenue.

*Highland Avenue from Garden Avenue to Profit Lane.

*Ontario Avenue from Lockport Street to Hyde Park Boulevard.

*Lindbergh Avenue from 77th Street to Cayuga Avenue.

*Main Street from Ontario Avenue to Pierce Avenue and from Pierce Avenue to Walnut Avenue.

*Packard Road from Niagara Falls Boulevard to the CSX bridge.

*Pine Avenue from Main Street to Hyde Park Boulevard.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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