Congressman Cites Bridge Rehab Costs and Lost Economic Potential As Justification to Tear Down the Outdated Highway
Commenting on a report titled “New York State Route 5 Buffalo Skyway Management Study” released this morning by the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-27) is calling the data empirical evidence justifying the need to proceed with the elimination of Buffalo’s Skyway.
“This report confirms what many in this community have argued for some time – maintaining the Skyway comes at a much higher price to this region than demolishing it will,” Higgins said.
According to the report, presented by the NYSDOT at the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council’s (GBNRTC) Policy Committee meeting today, the long term cost of maintaining the Buffalo Skyway for the next 75 years would reach nearly $125 million. Under cheaper maintenance options, the bridge could be maintained for 20 years at a cost of $42.7 million or for 50 years at an expense of almost $109.25 million. Preliminary estimates place the cost of Skyway demolition between $30 and $40 million.
“If we don’t pay the price to demolish this 52 year-old structure, this community will pay the price in terms of lost development opportunity and future maintenance expenses for years to come,” added Congressman Higgins.
According to the report, average daily traffic volume on the Skyway is 43,400 vehicles. And while the report explicitly states it is not intended to evaluate alternatives to the Skyway, the report’s data supports the conclusion that if it were eliminated, the Skyway's traffic could be handled by alternate facilities including the Outer Harbor Parkway which is currently under construction, the planned and permitted Ohio Street improvements and Tifft Street Connector, and the Inner Harbor Bridge which is currently under study.
Congressman Higgins noted that opportunity cost must also be factored into a cost/benefit analysis of Skyway removal, and by conservative measures, maintenance of the existing structure would impede an estimated $47.5 million in private sector development along the approximately 25 acre stretch currently occupied by the Skyway. “With the recent opening of the Erie Canal Harbor commercial slip we, as a community, can visualize the great untapped potential for the acres of unused land under the Skyway. Opening up this area has not only an immediate economic impact as a result of new development on this property, but has a multiplier effect in terms of the new jobs and sales tax produced at commercial sites and new property tax collected through residential development,” said Higgins.
According to the Skyway Management Study, capital costs invested in construction and maintenance of the Skyway to date have totaled $175 million (in today’s dollar).