While I think it’s great that people are taking the opportunity to speak their mind and fight to effectuate change on issues they care about, I just wish it wouldn’t happen in a vacuum.
The New Millennium Group, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Congress for New Urbanism and other civic groups are advocating for an alternative to the currently approved NYSDOT plan to improve Route 5 along Buffalo’s Outer Harbor.
After reading through the assessments and plans of both proposals, I simply find the NYSDOT plan to be the preferred alternative. Not just because it has been under design for over 10 years with extended public comment periods, completed Environmental Impact Studies, and approval from all relevant authorities…but because it takes into account the bigger picture.
I’ll stay away from hyperbole about the Skyway’s frequent closures (bogus) and the necessary lane requirements for Southtowns commuters (overblown), I’ll focus on the grander plan for the outer harbor and points south.
The City of Buffalo, Erie County, New York State, and the City of Lackawanna have spent hundreds of millions of dollars remediating brownfields in the areas immediately surrounding the area in question. Development investments have been made at the Union Ship Canal, Lakeside Commerce Park, and reconfiguration of several acres of the old Bethlehem steel site as an area for future industrial use. The regional plan is to reinvent the outer harbor as a destination for manufacturing, multimodal transshipment, and industrial use. So, I ask you, why do we want to subvert all of that planning and funding to plop down an at grade 35 MPH boulevard in the midst of an area that will require major road capacity?
Does it not make sense to continue the use of Route 5 as is and simply improve access to Fuhrmann Boulevard and the outer harbor? The construction as planned does not preclude future demolition of the Skyway and the improvements planned for Fuhrmann as an at grade boulevard with landscaping, and water access sound like a fair compromise. From the NYSDOT plan:
Route 5 and Fuhrmann Boulevard will remain along the Buffalo Outer Harbor as separate roadways. A low-speed, landscaped Fuhrmann Boulevard offers access, development opportunities and recreational use. A rebuilt Fuhrmann Boulevard will enhance and will create access for vehicular, transit, bicycle and pedestrian use. It will be the basis of a new circulation system for the Outer Harbor and the starting point for a future “surface” bridge or bridges to connect the Outer Harbor with the rest of Buffalo at any one of three possible locations previously identified by the city.
While it is fun to rail against NY Authorities for their ineptitude and near criminal ways, this plan is the product of nearly a decade of study and planning. Extensive public commentary was solicited and all hurdles for construction have been overcome. Why on the near eve of the bidding process would the Buffalo Common Council call a special committee meeting to protest a fait accompli? Grandstanding. Frankly, I’ve had more political grandstanding since I moved home three years ago than one man should ever have to witness.
It is approved and as of now, there are no grounds for legal action. Just build it. After all, the Bass Pro Elevator To The Moon Project will be started within 20 years and it has all the made up models that make new urbanists swoon.