For those under the age of 30, cars driving on Main Street in Buffalo’s downtown area is a foreign concept. That is, until now.
On Friday afternoon, city officials re-opened the 600 block as a multi-use road for cars, bikes, and the Metro Rail.
The opening came after long delays attributed, by the NFTA, to the study of safety concerns and installation of traffic detection devices. Buffalo resident Jarrett Steffen, 26, says he has no fear of sharing the road with trains. Steffen works downtown and says the expanded access will actually encourage him to spend more time in the area.
“I often stay here after work to go to events and things like this. But on weekends when I don’t work, I would definitely come down. It’s nice to have open streets here,” Steffen said.
Steffen says he likes the new design particularly because of its green-friendly bike lines.
For 40-year Buffalo resident Michael Euken - one of the city's more established residents - the re-opening makes memories of cars on Main Street are a reality once more. Euken says as far as safety goes for sharing the roadway, he’s not too concerned.
“I think they have everything under control. I think they’ve got it all figured out. I think they do it in Toronto. They drive on the tracks following the trains. I think they’ve got it figured out,” said Euken.
Euken works Security on the 600 block at the intersection of Main and Chippewa Streets. He recalls the bustle of the area over three decades ago, before the Metro Rail was built. Euken says he doesn’t think it will be the same this time around, unless big stores move back in - something he’d like to see.
Meanwhile, work continues on Main Street south of Chippewa for the same design. Euken thinks the long-term construction has - and will be - worth the wait.
“It’s a big project. I mean they just barely touched the next block before they had to shut down for the winter time. So it’s going to take a while. But I think once it’s done it’s going to be an improvement that the city needs,” Euken said.
Mayor Byron Brown referred to the 600 block as the most complete street in upstate New York. While it brings better access to the core of the city’s theater district, the overall Main Street design is aimed at improving connections between budding hotspots along the Main Street Corridor, from Tupper Street down to Canalside.