Main Street in Williamsville will be a construction zone for five months starting June 4, but proprietors along the busy retail thoroughfare want you to know they'll be open for business.
"All of the businesses up and down Main Street will be open," said Maria MacPeek, general manager of The Irishman restaurant. "No one's closing their doors during construction. We know there are going to be inconveniences for a little while, but the bigger picture of Main Street is going to be well worth it."
After nearly six years of community planning, including a formal planning process and tactical urbanism events, nearly two miles of Main Street, from the I-290 east to Williamsville South High School, is getting a $3.7 million makeover.
The village’s Picture Main Street initiative includes traffic-calming measures to make the thoroughfare more walkable for pedestrians. Elements approved by the state Department of Transportation include bump-outs at intersections with signals, new sidewalks and replacement of pavers between sidewalks and curbs. The project will also add furnishings such as benches, trash cans and bike racks.
Main Street will get the area's third HAWK (High-Intensity Activated crosswalk) beacon. The Tonawanda Rails-to-Trails project in 2016 first brought the traffic control device to Western New York, with one on Sheridan Drive and another on Kenmore Avenue.
The HAWK signal – two red lenses above a single yellow lens – remains dark until a pedestrian pushes a button to activate it. After displaying brief flashing and steady yellow intervals, the HAWK displays a steady red light to motorists and a “Walk” signal to pedestrians.
The hope is that the beacon, in the 5500 block of Main in front of Amherst Town Hall, will eliminate dangerous midblock crossings. The nearest signal-controlled intersections are Cayuga Road to the west and Mill Street to the east, but some pedestrians choose to dash across Main's five lanes instead.
In 2014, village officials likened crossing midblock to the classic 1980s arcade game Frogger, and called on the DOT to install a HAWK signal at that location.
The Williamsville HAWK is expected to be operating in late summer.
MacPeek said she and other business managers are especially excited for the increased connectivity and safety that the HAWK beacon promises.
"We think it will make walking in Williamsville easier," she said. "We're all looking for a walkable village and being able to go store to store, restaurant to restaurant, and neighbor to neighbor."
Portable electronic message boards have been set up alerting motorists that work begins June 4 and that they should expect delays. More than 36,000 vehicles travel on this section of Main Street daily.
The "Picture Main" project will be constructed in six phases, although the dates may vary due to weather and other factors, said Susan S. Surdej, regional public information officer for the state DOT.
Phase 1 begins June 4. Crews from contractor CATCO will work east along the south side of Main from Village Square Lane to Mill Street. That section will receive new granite curbs, sidewalks, snow storage areas, ADA ramps and drainage. The foundations for the HAWK signal will also be installed. Meanwhile, National Fuel Gas will be doing utility work starting at Reist Street on the north side and working east towards Mill Street. The goal is to complete the work by June 29 so it doesn't interfere with Old Home Days in mid-July and other annual summer events in the village center.
Phase 2 is scheduled to begin July 9 and covers the north and south sides of Main from I-290 to Village Square Lane. Over two weeks, crews will install new drainage, ADA ramps, curbs and sidewalks.
Phase 3, beginning July 24, involves the same work – drainage, ramps, curbs and sidewalks – from Mill Street east to the village line at Williamsville South High School along the south and north sides. That phase is expected to end Aug. 7.
Phase 4 begins July 30 and involves the north side of Main from Reist Street to Mill Street. The improvements will include new curbs, sidewalks, snow storage areas, ADA ramps, foundations for the HAWK signal and drainage. This phase is expected to end Aug. 15.
Surdej said the contractor will concentrate on completing the village's downtown business district from Cayuga Road to Mill Street and will avoid working in this area after 3:30 p.m. on Thursdays so it won't affect the weekly Music on Main festival.
Phase 5 involves milling and paving the project's entire length of Main, from the I-290 to Williamsville South High School. This night work begins Sept. 7 and continues until Sept. 30.
Phase 6 beginning Oct. 1 includes final road striping and new sign installation and will take a month.
Ed Young's Hardware at Main and Mill will be open regular hours, and manager Grant Szymanek said he expects the project will help his business by encouraging more people to walk in the village.
"People would shy away from Main Street just because of the traffic pattern," he said. "This will help them move along safely and it's going to help us in the long run."
He and MacPeek said they appreciated that they were visited in recent weeks by the engineer in charge of the project who asked for their email addresses and promised to keep them apprised of progress.
"We're looking forward to it," said MacPeek. "It's a little inconvenient, but everyone just bear with us and it'll be great when it's all finished."