Work on $16.5M Niagara Gateway moves to street level

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Residents and business owners along Niagara Street are finally starting to see progress at the street level, after the massive corridor project was announced about a year ago.

The Niagara Street Corridor Project has a wide impact because it’s so heavily traveled. And it shows.

The sounds of construction are the signs of progress along Niagara Street. And they are welcome by people like Marlyn Vega, who opened her dry cleaning business there seven years ago.

“We deal with this for so many years, it looked like nobody wanted to do anything for so many years,” Vega said. “But finally it’s going to be done. I’m very excited that it’s going to be done. I’m very happy for this project.”

The project was announced in August 2014, and touted as critical to promoting economic growth in the city. But years of disrepair and heavy use make for a rough ride.

“We don’t want it to be a bumpy ride up and down the street,” said Councilman David Rivera, who represents the Niagara District. “And that’s exactly what they were seeing when they got off the peace bridge, or got off the 190. It was really a bad experience.”

It won’t be soon, but that will change. Street-level work began within the past week and will continue for the next six to eight weeks — weather permitting.

It’s also the first of the multi-phase, $16.5 million project, which officials say is about six weeks behind due to necessary utility work.

“The big concern is why is it taking so much time,” Rivera said. “They don’t see the actual work that’s happening, because a lot of the work is happening under the ground.”

Some resurfacing will take place along Niagara Street this year, but the difference will be made in 2016.

“Next year, when we do full reconstruction of the pavement itself, they’re going to see a vast improvement,” said Steve Stepniak, Buffalo’s commissioner of Public Works. “They’re going to love the condition that’s out there.”

Stepniak also said residents and business owners played a big role.

“The community really had a lot of input into what they wanted to see in this project,” he said.

The city is also looking to save money by taking over control of light posts and other associated utilities, rather than renting them from National Grid, which has been past practice.

Stepniak said the city could save between $20,000 and $25,000 per year on the Niagara Street project by taking over light operation.

“That’s a good savings,” he said. “So, we’re going to keep the momentum going forward on these big projects.”

With the first phase now underway, the expectation should be many more months of construction. But officials say it’s important work if the city intends to revive a vital corridor.

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