SALAMANCA — The recently announced rehabilitation project planned for the Pennsy Trail will not only improve the current path system but also extend it to create a more pedestrian-friendly area near the Seneca Allegany Casino and Hotel.
The upgrade to the Pennsy Trail is expected to get underway when weather allows and will be open in late summer or early autumn, according to Michael Kimelberg, chief operating officer for the Seneca Nation. If all goes according to plan, it will connect with a new walking path on Broad Street Extension expected to also be constructed and open this year.
“We are starting to see some real progress on a connected trail network that has been planned for a couple years,” Kimelberg said.
Announcement of the Pennsy Trail’s improvement project, estimated at $602,759 by SNI Transportation Manager Jody Clark, came with news of a $482,206 grant the Nation received earlier this month from New York State. The grant was part of more than $67 million in funding statewide for bicycle, pedestrian and multi-use trails.
Clark said the grant required a minimum 20 percent match from local contributions; the additional funding will be primarily in-kind contributions and the partnership between the Nation and city for materials, equipment and manpower.
Kimelberg said the Allegany River Development Commission (ARDC), a joint organization comprised of both Seneca Nation and city officials, had originally created a plan of improvements to the trail as part of a grant application through the Safe Routes to School National Partnership.
“Once we saw this program come up we thought it would be a great opportunity to secure these funds for the Pennsy Trail,” Kimelberg said about the recent state program. “We were obviously very pleased to get one of the 12 (grants) in the Western New York region.”
During a telephone interview with The Salamanca Press, Kimelberg said funding for the Pennsy Trail is part of a much larger plan for the city’s entire west end on Broad Street Extension. When the ARDC was first formed in 2012, it created a conceptual master plan for the west end commercial district.
Improvements to the Pennsy Trail were among those plans as well as making Broad Street Extension, which runs from Center Street and ends at the Seneca Allegany Casino, more friendly for pedestrians.
“We included enhancements along Broad Street as we really want to promote it as a commercial corridor,” Kimelberg said.
He said the Seneca Nation plans to construct a 10-foot-wide walking path on the south side of the road from the casino to slightly past the entrance to Burger King and Holiday Inn Express. Clark added there will also be a crosswalk to the existing sidewalk on the north side of Broad Street Extension.
“It really provides a missing link for anyone who wants to walk between the different attractions,” Kimelberg said. “That includes our employees as well as people who are at the casino … and want to see other offerings in the commercial district.”
The Pennsy Trail is expected to connect with that new walkway near where the old Exit 20 off ramp was recently removed, essentially creating a two-trail network that spans the length of the city. That network is also connected via sidewalks to the Pat McGee Trail, which runs from the north end of Salamanca to Cattaraugus.
Sandi Brundage, a member of Salamanca A.C.H.I.E.V.E. which has focused on making the city more walkable, among other things, said she is excited about the potential the new trail system has on the community.
When Salamanca was chosen in 2008 as one of 10 communities nationally to focus on its walkability, an assessment noted Broad Street Extension to the casino as a “no man’s land” for pedestrians, Brundage said.
With a network of trails and sidewalks now planned throughout the city, Salamanca A.C.H.I.E.V.E. will continue to focus on its idea of “walkable school buses,” a program that allows for children to walk or bike to school with one or more adult leaders.
“We would love to incorporate the Pennsy Trail into the walking school bus model,” she said. “We at A.C.H.I.E.V.E. are excited about this opportunity.”
Although the Pennsy Trail will be extended, the main focus of the rehabilitation project will be improving its current route as well. Kimelberg said it will be paved, lighted and will feature signage as part of a walking tour of sorts for people on the trail.
“It’s going to be lighted and that will really be important not just to make it an accessible trail but also a safe one,” Kimelberg said. “It’s going to have signage to direct people to different attractions and destinations along the way.”
The Pennsy Trail was converted from a railroad bed to a trail following the abandonment of the Western New York and Pennsylvania Railroad System, which operated until the Kinzua Dam was built in the 1960s.
(This story appears in the Jan. 30, 2014 edition of The Salamanca Press.)