Deep, crater-like potholes. Crumbling pavement coupled with years of wear and tear, harsh Buffalo winters and loads of daily truck and car traffic.
That sums up the long stretch of South Park Avenue cutting through Lackawanna, linking Buffalo to the Southtowns - where an estimated 11,300 vehicles travel daily - amid worsening conditions over the last 15 years or more.
But come next spring, drivers and businesses - along with major cultural destinations such as Our Lady of Victory Basilica and the Botanical Gardens - will begin to see a $2.5 million undertaking to rebuild South Park from the Buffalo city line to Blasdell, along with the reconstruction of Ridge Road from its intersection at South Park to Abbott Road in West Seneca - another stretch handling daily traffic of more than 12,200 vehicles.
It’s a massive undertaking by the state for an economically depressed city. Lackawanna city and community leaders also are hoping to secure another $2.5 million in state transportation grant money this fall.
If it happens, South Park would also undergo major sidewalk and curb replacements to make South Park more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, including a bicycle lane, while also making it easier for businesses to draw customers. New streetlighting, benches and tree plantings would be in the mix.
With the towering Basilica as backdrop, State Sen. Timothy M. Kennedy, D-Buffalo, on Wednesday announced the $2.5 million reconstruction of South Park and Ridge. The initial restoration is expected to begin in the spring and be completed in the same construction season.
Szymanski, who was elated by the development, said, “There’s no progress without struggle. It has to be done. ► he said of the road rehabilitation for Lackawanna, a city of just 18,000 people compared to its former population of about 30,000 and when Bethlehem Steel plant operations defined the steel town in its heyday. ◄ If Father Baker was canonized tomorrow, I’d be highly embarrassed at the condition of South Park Avenue.
Michael J. Sobaszek, executive director of the Lackawanna Area Chamber of Commerce, said the need is critical.
“South Park has been long neglected. After this winter, it was like something out of a Third World country until it was patched,” he said.
“It’s definitely going to be a plus in the long run, despite the inconveniences,” said Terese Scofidio, CEO of Baker Victory Services, which employes 1,100 workers, with about 800 of them in Lackawanna daily.
The hoped-for additional funding through the state’s Transportation Alternatives Program would target treetscape improvements for the city of 18,000.
Daisies Cafe co-owner Alana Ryan, who runs the diner at 2711 South Park with her husband, John, said their restaurant will feel the impact of the construction.
“Any time they close a street down, that hurts us tremendously,” she said. “But we have a lot of regulars who are hooked on our food, and they’ll keep coming. But hey, when it’s done, if it looks better, it will be a blessing in disguise.”