NORTH TONAWANDA – Bulldozers and backhoes were lined up behind politicians Wednesday who were thrilled to announce that work was about to finally start on a 3,300-foot extension of Meadow Drive, a plan that has been talked about for decades.
The extension of Meadow will go through undeveloped land between Nash Road to Erie Avenue – where the city opened a Super Walmart one year ago – and will ultimately connect Payne Avenue to Erie.
City Engineer Dale W. Marshall said work on the extension is set to begin immediately and will take 110 days, so it can be completed by the beginning of December, weather permitting.
“This is a such a critical project for North Tonawanda to relieve traffic congestion, to connect our mid-city business district on Payne Avenue – Mid-City Plaza – to Erie Avenue and a budding commercial and industrial district in that part of the city. It’s going to make traffic so much easier,” said Mayor Robert G. Ortt. “It’s going to give us an east-west corridor, which we do not have right now.”
The contract was awarded on July 30 to DiPizio Construction of Cheektowaga, which bid $1.428 million. Eighty percent of the project will be paid for by the federal Transportation Infrastructure Program. The state Department of Traffic will cover three-fourths of the remaining 20 percent, and the city will cover the remainder, just under $90,000, which has already been bonded, said Ortt.
Ortt said plans for an extension of the dead-end road had been on city maps since 1977. In 2002, under former mayor Lawrence V. Soos and former Congressman Thomas M. Reynolds, $1.4 million in federal aid was lined up.
But a number of obstacles stopped the progress of building the extension, including five years of legal wrangling with CSX Railroad, which had to give the city permission to build the road across the company’s railroad tracks. The city also had to deal with issues regarding wetlands and acquiring property for the right of way.
“Getting the funding was the easy part,” joked Reynolds, who joined city officials for the official ground breaking on Wednesday. “It has taken a long time and a lot of people to come together.”
“This project gone through a lot of hurdles,” said Ortt, who thanked city attorney Shawn Nickerson for his “tireless work” to make the project happen.
“I am certainly the happiest person in the world to see this project come to fruition,” said Nickerson. “This extension will certainly help bring people from Walmart to our downtown area.”
State Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, who was born and raised in North Tonawanda, said he was in the meetings in City Hall in 1977 when they started talking about extending Meadow Drive.
“I remember when the lines were drawn,” Maziarz said. “This is such an integral part of bringing two sides of the city together.” He added, “This is going to be a gateway for Mid-City Plaza and right down to the Erie Avenue corridor and Niagara Falls Boulevard. This is going to be the main east-west route through North Tonawanda and it’s long overdue.”
Ortt said the new extension will extend Meadow Drive, at the dead end on Wayne Drive, just past Nash Road to the Foristar Plant on Erie Avenue. He said some land along the new road will remain wetlands, but the extension has been rezoned so there would be no heavy industry to disturb the character of the neighborhood.
“We’d like to see little shops and plazas and doctor’s offices,” said Ortt.