Updated: Monday, 01 Oct 2012, 5:55 PM EDT
Published : Monday, 01 Oct 2012, 5:06 PM EDT
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A major project will soon transform part of Main Street in downtown Buffalo to the way things used to be.
Construction began Monday on a $7.7 million project to bring cars back to the heart of the city's theatre district. Since the early 80s, traffic has been banned from the 600 block of Main Street.
Bea Militello, the owner of Bijou Grille, said, "Right now a lot of the out-of-towners can't drive down Main Street, so they don't know we exist. I think it will be a good thing for all downtown because we have a lot to be proud of on this end and unless you do have a car you can see Shea's theater and all the other live theaters and restaurants."
Increasing visibility and helping to bring more businesses to the empty spaces on Main Street are two of the project's goals.
Mayor Byron Brown noted, "We see a lot of investors now looking all along Main Street for opportunities to make investments. We are very pleased by what we are seeing in the 500 block of Main Street, which for a long time was in decline\. Now we are seeing significant private sector investment."
Construction will take a little over a year and there will be a gating system put in place to notify drivers when the trains are coming through. Cars will be sharing the track with the Metro rail.
"This is the most complicated section. This is the area around the port hole here that we have where the cars will be off the rail track merging on the rail track after the port hole," explained Public Works Commissioner Steve Stepniak.
A major change will be the removal of some of the Metro stops, which need to be taken out to make way for street traffic. But Militello and Mayor Brown agree that they also expect the area to be far more handicap accessible. And neither were concerned about congestion.
"People will have to be patient and watch for the trains, but it's nothing that hasn't been done in Toronto and other cities," Militello said.
Once the 600 block is finished, construction will continue to the 500 block between Chippewa and Huron. That project has a price tag of $21 million.
Mayor Brown said that once finished, Main Street will become one of the most complete streets in the region, with vehicle, rail, pedestrian and bike traffic.