BUFFALO, N.Y. -- U. S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) threw his support behind a plan to use federal funds to bring two-way vehicle traffic back to all of Main Street in Downtown Buffalo.
Schumer, in a letter to U. S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, said Thursday that the funding "will allow the City to continue to upgrade transit and pedestrian amenities, improve access to Main Street buildings, improve downtown traffic circulation and re-introduce vehicular traffic along Buffalo's downtown transit mall."
Schumer and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown are asking for $32 million in federal TIGER grants through the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The funding is competitive, Schumer said, adding that he will meet with LaHood face to face to make a pitch for Buffalo.
Parts of Main Street, especially the 500 Block, have suffered through decades of decay; currently, 9 of the 13 buildings across from the Hyatt Hotel are vacant or closed. 2 On Your Side profiled the area in a recent special report.
While some building owners, like Roger Trettel and Don Warfe, have successfully rehabilitated their properties, those successful transformations sit within feet of blight. Some developers have argued bringing back traffic is the only way to bring large-scale improvements to the 500 Block.
Schumer said many other cities have reopened vehicle traffic to previous pedestrian malls with great success; he thinks the change could also revitalize Buffalo.
"We need to have cars back on Main Street," Michael Schmand, executive director with Buffalo Place, said. "It was a great urban experiment that didn't work, and now it's time to rectify the situation and bring cars back to Main Street."
Buffalo has already reopened vehicle traffic to the 700 Block, and construction should begin on the 600 Block in early 2012. But the stretch from the 500 Block all the way south to Perry Street has yet to secure funding.