Higgins & Kennedy Announce Green Light for Skyway Study
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) and New York State Senator Tim Kennedy announced that the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has agreed to the Congressman’s request for a full and formal Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to examine alternatives to the Buffalo Skyway.
“A comprehensive review of the Skyway positions this community to make the best decisions moving forward,” said Congressman Higgins.
“The ‘functionally obsolete’ Skyway is a physical barrier impeding continued economic progress, and razing it will open up new opportunities for development along Buffalo's waterfront and spur private investment and job creation. A full and formal EIS is the first step towards finding out how we can improve our infrastructure and open up new land for development," said Senator Tim Kennedy. "I thank Congressman Higgins for his tireless advocacy for our waterfront and our community and I look forward to working with him and Commissioner Driscoll as we move forward with the review process.”
Higgins is a longtime advocate for removal of the Skyway and in May wrote to NYSDOT Commissioner Mathew Driscoll requesting a full and formal environmental review. In a response sent to Congressman Higgins this week, Commissioner Driscoll writes: “Based on my assessment of the issues, I am pleased to inform you that the New York State Department of Transportation will commence an EIS for the Skyway and surrounding transportation corridors during the current State Transportation Plan period.”
Kennedy led a Senate Transportation hearing on the future of the Skyway and urged the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council to make removal of the Buffalo Skyway a priority for the region.
The Skyway was built in 1956, when the elevated highway served to accommodate the efficient flow of twenty million tons of cargo moved annually via lake freighters. Today is a much different time for Buffalo’s economy. The structure, which once fed economic growth, now hangs over prime property at Canalside and an additional 27 acres of land along the Outer Harbor.
According NYSDOT’s 2008 “Skyway Management Study”, extending the “useful life” of the Skyway by 50 years would cost $109.2 to $124.9 million. The same report estimates the cost of replacement infrastructure to be $63-87 million.
Higgins argues that infrastructure investments in recent years could help serve as alternative routes should Skyway removal be selected as a preferred alternative. Those include: a $2.3 million South Park Avenue improvement project, an $11 million transformation of Ohio Street, and the ongoing $20 million reconstruction of the Bailey Avenue bridges.
“With the Buffalo’s renaissance comes a new community confidence that we don’t have to settle for the status quo,” added Higgins. “This EIS says Buffalo believes it can do better and we’re ready to make bold, well-informed choices about our future.”
The 60-year old Skyway is categorized as “fracture critical,” which means failure of any one of a number of structural elements would lead to a catastrophic failure, and “functionally obsolete” under federal highway standards, due to its lack of shoulders, a feature which frequently causes the highway to shut-down completely when accidents occur.