If at first you don’t succeed … try again in a different way.
Rebuffed on their last attempt to get federal aid to pay for the work, officials from the city and Buffalo Place are making another attempt to obtain a federal transportation grant to continue the Cars Sharing Main Street project south of Mohawk Street.
But this time, they’re breaking the effort up into smaller pieces, because they have matching funds for only part of it, from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York.
So instead of applying for a single grant to cover the cost of converting the road from Mohawk to Court streets, and also below Exchange Street, the city is seeking a $25.2 million TIGER grant focused only on the lower portion of the street. That includes the small portion from Exchange to Scott streets, including the track bed, the rail line, station work and crossovers, and then additional track work from Scott to South Park Avenue, where there’s already car traffic on Main.
Meanwhile, the upper portion will wait until the city can get matching funds to make the grant request more attractive. Last year’s effort failed because of the intense demand last year for the TIGER – Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery – funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation, with about $20 sought for every $1 that was granted, according to Buffalo Place officials.
In all, the long-term project calls for a complete conversion of Main back to two-way traffic, with the light rail sharing the lanes for most of it, from Goodell Street to the waterfront. The effort is already completed in the 700 and 600 blocks, with the 500 block and Fountain Plaza wrapping up in a few months.
The remaining sidewalks on the east side of Main should be poured this week, and workers are getting ready to start on the west side. The Metro Rail station panels were just finished, and crews will also pour concrete around Fountain Plaza itself, as well as in front of the Hyatt Regency Buffalo. The intersection of Main and Huron streets is to be finished by June 8, with Huron reopening to cross-traffic.
But about $70 million of work remains from Mohawk to South Park, “so there’s still a lot of work to be done,” said Buffalo Place Chairman Keith M. Belanger. “We’d like to see the whole street done. We don’t like that it stops at Mohawk. But we don’t have the matching money, and we have the experience of not getting it last year,” he said. “We have to put forth a concerted effort to get some sort of funding other than TIGER or we’ll be doing this for the next 20 years.”
In other news from Buffalo Place, the nonprofit business-improvement district is seeking proposals from six local marketing firms for a rebranding campaign to “refresh and enhance our profile,” said board member Michael P. Hughes. The agency is also updating a downtown pedestrian volume survey that was last done in 2008.