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Amherst, Tonawanda move forward with Niagara Falls Boulevard study

Officials in the towns of Tonawanda and Amherst have agreed to move forward with identifying problems affecting the busy Niagara Falls Boulevard corridor.

Phase one of a joint study will be conducted next year, James Hartz, director of Tonawanda’s Office of Planning and Development, told the town’s Planning Board on Wednesday night.

Planners on both sides of the boulevard have already agreed on the scope of the issues, which includes drainage, sidewalk access and traffic bottlenecks along the towns’ shared border, Hartz said.

“We want to eliminate a lot of the existing conflict points out there, create a more efficient corridor and a more safe corridor,” he told The Buffalo News after the meeting. “We will get there.”

The push for joint planning was initiated in June by Amherst Councilman Guy R. Marlette,

Amherst recently agreed to begin work on a master plan for Niagara Falls Boulevard and started outlining a strategy to achieve some uniformity along both sides of the congested road. In fact, Amherst invited stakeholders – including state, county and regional transportation officials – to serve on a planning committee for the corridor that would meet quarterly. But there had been questions about how involved Tonawanda would be.

Hartz said he hopes that the Greater Buffalo Niagara Regional Transportation Council will bring its resources, including staff support and financing, to the study.

“You really need that facilitator between the two towns and the [state Department of Transportation],” he said. “You need someone to bring everyone to the table and get everyone on the same page. You need that conduit to get the study done.”

The towns also plan to look at zoning and land use to ensure there are no conflicts where one side of the boulevard may allow something but the other side doesn’t. Currently, the boulevard is a hodgepodge of residential and commercial uses.

Also, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority is considering adding bus, rapid transit or light rail to the boulevard, with an analysis due to be released next month.

“We’re going to have to be looking at that at the same time we’re going forward with our study.” Hartz said.

The ultimate goal is to address the towns’ concerns, including the height of future buildings, drainage and the walkability along sections of the boulevard,

“We want to get to a point where we’re able to present DOT with design alternatives to change their road corridor and make it safer for pedestrians, he said.