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Vehicular traffic is set to return to 600 block of Main Street in Buffalo

After some 30 years, trains and cars – as of 1 p.m. Friday – will be coexisting on the 600 block of Main Street again.

The long-awaited reopening to vehicular traffic of a key block of downtown that includes the city’s Theater District is being announced as well as celebrated with a bit of theater of its own. As the traffic gate is officially opened, Mayor Byron W. Brown and Rep. Brian Higgins will get to be in the first car to drive on the newly opened road.

“Reopening downtown Main Street for business and entertainment is a real game-changer for Buffalo,” Brown said.

The $8 million reopening of the 600 block – which traverses Chippewa to Tupper streets and serves attractions such as Shea’s Performing Arts Center, the Market Arcade and the Tralfamadore Café – is part of a larger plan to eventually bring traffic back to the entire swath of Main Street that closed when the Metro Rail opened in the mid-1980s.

While the closing was meant to be a good thing, many now agree it turned out to be a grand experiment that failed. And they are predicting the reopening will add to a downtown resurgence.

“We have anxiously awaited this day,” said Anthony Conte, president of Shea’s and president of the Theater District Association. “Our patrons will no longer have to walk around the block to purchase tickets at Shea’s ticket office. Theater patrons will now be able to be dropped off at the front door of the theaters on Main Street.”

The 600 block of the street will be shared with trains and cars, as well as bicyclists and pedestrians.

As the underground Metro Rail trains come above ground on the 600 block, lights will flash and gates will go down, preventing cars from passing, said Steven J. Stepniak, the city’s public works commissioner. When it’s safe to pass, the gate will lift, and cars will share the lane with the train in front of them.

For now, cars will turn off at Chippewa Street while work continues on the 500 block.

email: sschulman@buffnews.com