Modified: August 11, 2016 1:23pm
Today, Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz was joined by Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26), Erie County Legislators Peter Savage (3rd District) and Kevin Hardwick (4th District), Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger, Mayor of the City of Tonawanda Rick Davis, Executive Director of the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (“NFTA”) Kimberley A. Minkel, New York State Department of Transportation (“NYSDOT”) Region 5 Director Darrell Kaminski, Trail supporters and residents to cut the ribbon and officially open the Tonawanda Rails to Trails Project, a 4-mile long connecting trail that runs from Kenmore Avenue in the Town of Tonawanda to State Street in the City of Tonawanda.
The project connects at the south end with the City of Buffalo’s North Buffalo Rails to Trails and on the north end to the Tonawanda Rails to Trails Extension, which is currently under design and will stretch from State Street in the City of Tonawanda to East Niagara Street and the Erie Canalway Trail.
“The completion of the Rails to Trails Project marks the beginning of a new era of connectivity in Erie County. Residents are now able to travel from Buffalo to Tonawanda without driving a car but instead by riding a bicycle or walking along a Trail that connects communities with each other and also connects residents to nature and to our waterfront,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz. “This Project embraces smart growth principles by protecting open spaces while investing in established neighborhoods, which are now connected to each other in new ways. More walkability and outdoor recreational opportunities are things that all communities want, and on behalf of all Erie County residents I thank our partners for helping to make the Rails to Trails Project a reality.”
"With the Town of Tonawanda Rails to Trails project once again we see Western New York take something old and turn it into something fresh and new," said Congressman Higgins. "This trail provides a recreational connection between Buffalo and the Tonawandas, serving as a welcome addition to the network of paths enjoyed by walkers, runners, riding enthusiasts and families alike."
The Trail is a 12-foot wide asphalt pathway with various access points and small parking areas at each end. Federal funds provided 80% of the funding for the Trails project, with Erie County funding the remaining 20%. Design work on the Project began in 2005 and construction began in 2015.
The Trail replaces an old, disused railroad bed that had bisected the community and also features a High-Intensity Activated Crosswalk (“HAWK”) signal at the point where the Trail crosses Sheridan Drive. The first of its kind to be used in New York State, the HAWK signal both increases pedestrian safety on the Trail and enhances motorists’ awareness of pedestrians seeking to cross Sheridan.
Along with the HAWK signal, the installation of Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons (“RRFBs”) at intersections of the Trail with Englewood Avenue and Brighton Road in the Town, south and north of Sheridan, will increase motorists’ yielding to pedestrians at crosswalks in those locations.
"The completion of the Tonawanda Rails to Trails project has been one of my proudest moments since taking office. This project is truly transformational not only for its creative repurposing of outdated rail lines, but for the unique recreation and transporation opportunities it offers, and the connectivity it creates among multiple communities from the Tonawandas to the City of Buffalo," said Legislator Peter Savage.
“This Trail has marks a new era in our town, not only of one of health and fitness but also of one of connectivity; where people will be better able to get to our beautiful waterfront in our region and enjoy it. I haven’t been able to go anywhere over the past 8 months or so without people raving about the New Tonawanda Trail and it hadn’t even officially opened,” said Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Joseph Emminger.
"This Trail is proof that, working together with other local governments and other government officials, good things can happen and do happen. Partnering with Erie County, New York State and the NFTA, this almost 4-mile trail is not just a dream anymore; it’s a reality!” Kimberley A. Minkel, NFTA Executive Director said, “We are pleased to be participating in the Rails-to-Trails project through the use of our railroad right-of-way property, which has been repurposed into a popular bike and pedestrian trail connecting various communities. This is a perfect example of multiple entities collaborating for the benefit of the entire region.”
Also joining in the ribbon cutting celebration from the Town of Tonawanda were Deputy Supervisor and Councilman John Bargnesi along with Councilmen Bill Conrad and Dan Crangle; Town Engineer Jim Jones; Director of Youth, Parks & Recreation Jeff Ehlers; Parks Supervisor Rich Ford; Town Historian Ed Adamczyk; Town Planning Board member Denis Uminski, and Police Chief Jerry Uschold with Lt. Nick Bado.
Others in attendance included Lynn Marinelli, current Director of Intergovernmental Relations at Empire State Development and a longtime supporter of the project from her tenure in the Erie County Legislature, WNY Railway Historical Society, and Devan Lawton of the WNY Railway Historical Society. In addition to Mayor Davis, attending officials from the City of Tonawanda included DPW Superintendent Joe Warthling and Chief of Police William Strassburg.
The Tonawanda Rails to Trails Extension Project will proceed north from the current project’s terminus at State Street in the City of Tonawanda until it intersects Fillmore Avenue. The trail will then proceed north down Fillmore until it hits East Niagara Street and the Erie Canalway Trail. The portion of the Trail from State Street (after crossing Young Street) to Fillmore will be off road and will cross Ellicott Creek via the old railroad bridge. At the north end of the bridge the trail will pass by and connect to Eastern Park.
Once the trail hits Fillmore pedestrians will be accommodated via sidewalk improvements and bicyclists will be accommodated in the roadway through re-paving, re-striping and lane sharing markings.