By Jamie Hall, Kamesha Jones and Jazmina Rivera
Bengal News West Reprters
The Niagara Street Gateway Project, which will rejuvenate Niagara from South Elmwood Avenue to Ontario Street, will begin in July.
The project is broken down into four phases and is estimated to cost a total of $12.7 million. It will involve improvements to make it safer for vehicular traffic, bicyclists and pedestrians.
The heavily traveled Niagara strip has been in much need for improvement as potholes riddle the street, especially closer to downtown. This is why the project will be making the most changes in phase one, from South Elmwood Avenue to Virginia Street and phase two, from Virginia Street to Porter Avenue.
Amy Weymouth, NFTA traffic engineer, on the Niagara Street transit improvements:
The first two phases will be the most rigorous because this particular area serves as a main commuting route as well as a business district.
There is a lot to expect from the first phase. The improvements and renovations for this area includes: milling and asphalt covering and some widening of the streets, improvements for pedestrian and bicycle access, new street lighting, traffic signal replacements as well as an upgrade in landscape features and other amenities such as bicycle racks and new signage.
As the streets are repaved and widened, there will also be new lane configuration. There will be one lane in each direction of traffic flow and a center turn lane. In an effort to enhance pedestrian and bicycle movement, a bicycle lane will also be added and things such as benches, vegetation, and bump outs—areas that protrude from the sidewalk at intersections to serve as a way to shorten the distance for pedestrian street crossing.
The city has decided to use LED street lighting that come equipped with nodes that allow for them to be controlled by computer. This feature will allow for the lights to be dimmed if necessary and will also send out an alert when it needs to be repaired or replaced, said Tom Duk, senior engineer heading the project.
John Bidell, an associate engineer for the project, said, “We have none of those type in the city right now so we’re going to see how it works to help maintenance down the line.”
Once construction in phase one is well on its way, phase two will be expected to begin in the fall of this year and will get as much done as the weather permits. This is the area that is considered the Hispanic Heritage Corridor. Bidell said the city's strategic planning department teamed with Hispanics United and others to identify ways to connect the project to the Hispanic community.
“We are trying to tailor that stretch, keeping all the same elements of phase one in phase two, but if there’s something that we can do to help set up the flavor or let everyone know that they’re in the Hispanic area, we’re working with them to try to do that,” said Bidell.
These two phases combined are estimated to cost $5.2 million and have been funded with 80 percent federal funds, 15 percent state funds and 5 percent from the city.
Simultaneous to the Niagara Street Gateway Project, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority livability project will also be in construction to upgrade and enhance the current bus route along the Niagara strip from Niagara Square to Ontario Street.
Buses will run as scheduled and traffic will be allowed during each phase with minimal interruption.
Phase three includes the Niagara Street and West Ferry Avenue intersection. This part of the project is still in its infancy stage of planning, but what is expected to be done are minor improvements to Broderick Park and the lift bridge with funds of $500,000 and may begin in late fall of this year.The last part of this plan is phase four that runs from Porter Avenue to Ontario Street. More focus will be put on green infrastructure along this route and is said to cost an estimate of $7 million.