BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — “The more public infrastructure dollars we’re able to bring into this community, the more opportunity there will be,” said Congressman Brian Higgins (D-NY).

Higgins, along with local leaders, announced Monday an additional $54 million will be invested in the Cars Sharing Main Street Project.

When the Metro rail was added to Main Street 40 years ago, not only did it limit street access to drivers, but vacancy signs went up as well.

“Property values dropped 54%, retail activity dropped nearly 50% and retail job losses were at 96%,” Congressman Higgins said.

Higgins added that around 20 years ago, the movement to bring cars back downtown started, and since then, they’ve seen more life coming back to the heart of the city.

“Residential activity has increased about 350%. You see new activity along Main Street and that activity is not coincidental.” Higgins said. “There is a cause and effect relationship.”

The price tag on the project has reached almost $108 million, and crews continue to work section by section as the funds come in.

“As we develop and design each block, the designers mimic the buildings that are in the vicinity of the street that fit in on the block that it’s on to be cohesive as someone walks all the way from Goodell down to Canalside,” Public Works Commissioner Michael Finn said.

The mission is to eventually offer driving, biking and walking access all the way down Main.

“With each dollar we have invested in opening Main Street to vehicular traffic, there has been essentially a $4 private sector return on that investment,” said Mayor Byron Brown. “Tens of thousands of people from all across the city and all across the region work in Downtown Buffalo and this project has meant more jobs for residents of the City of Buffalo and more jobs of the region.”

Both local and state leaders are excited to see this expansion, and what it could lead to for the city as a whole.

“When we see this kind of growth happening in and around downtown, you know what’s next,” said State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes. “The East Side.”

Hope Winter is a reporter and multimedia journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here.