NORTH TONAWANDA - After five years of delays and difficulties, the city has made a deal with CSX Corp. to allow an extension of Meadow Drive that will clear the way for developers to build about 60 houses in the city.

The agreement calls for crossing land by CSX tracks and extending Meadow Drive another six-tenths of a mile to Erie Avenue by next summer.

"That's important for traffic flow and getting in and out of the downtown," said Shawn Nickerson, city attorney, after the Common Council's unanimous vote to accept the terms at its Tuesday evening meeting. "We were finally able to shake this agreement loose. We can finally, once and for all, put this out to bid."

City Engineer Dale Marshall said he expects to seek bids at the end of this year for the $2 million road project that will add another east-west route, improve traffic flow and open a new stretch of land for development.

The path of the new stretch of road will cross two CSX tracks, one abandoned and one used by a train daily, Nickerson said.

CSX's resistance to the city's request for permission build a road over the tracks was overruled by an administrative law judge called in five years ago to hear the case, he said.

It took about two years to negotiate the terms of the agreement that came to Marshall's office last week: permanent easements on two small patches of land for $4,600.

Nickerson said he and Administrative Assistant Robert Welch had lately been calling CSX about twice a day to finish the arrangements.

In the months ahead, the city will close on the deal and coordinate the remaining pieces of the project: The state Department of Transportation must release $1.44 million in federal funds.

The state is then expected to cover 75 percent of the remaining $600,000 project cost, Marshall said. The city is responsible for the balance.

If everything goes as planned, construction would begin in March and finish in June, he said.