Empire State Trail should go south, too
As a user of local bike trails, I applaud the announcement by Gov. Andrew Cuomo of the 750-mile Empire State Trail that will provide an unobstructed path from New York City to Buffalo. But why stop there?
From 1908 to 1933, the Buffalo and Lake Erie Traction Co. ran electric-powered trolley service between Buffalo and Erie, a distance of 93 miles with 91 stops. Its viability ended mainly due to the advent of personal cars and the rails were removed. But much of its roadbed still exists. From downtown Buffalo to Athol Springs, the trolley ran along city streets. From there to Dunkirk (35 miles), the trolley path was mostly off-road and is now a National Grid power corridor. Note: sharing utility right of way with a recreational trail is being done elsewhere, for example, the Power Trail in Colorado.
Obstacles to a continuous trail along the former trolley route (off-road sections) include a few crossroads not at grade and creeks where trolley bridges are gone. Between Silver Creek and Dunkirk, the New York State Thruway was built over about a mile of the old trolley route. But these obstructions can all be bypassed using local roads. Beyond Dunkirk, the trolley basically followed Route 20 to Erie.
Recognizing the many challenges to creating such a trail extension, benefits would be recreational access to numerous villages and parks along Lake Erie as well as picturesque grape country. Furthermore, it would intersect the Chautauqua Rail-Trail in Brocton.