You have staked out a position in direct opposition to that of Rep. Brian Higgins. I think it’s safe to say that few politicians have done more to advance the cause of the waterfront – especially Buffalo’s outer harbor – than he.
You use rhetoric that is either hyperbolic or patently false. Route 5 is a road – not a wall. I have been told that the reason why it was bermed in that location has to do with continuous wintertime snowdrifts due to the unimpeded wind off the lake. The at-grade section further south has the former Bethlehem Steel plant land as a buffer. Did you know that?
You constantly bring up the Skyway even though it has nothing whatsoever to do with this particular project. The Southtowns Connector project has one aim and one aim only – to reconfigure Fuhrmann Boulevard to a 4-lane boulevard, and to improve access to and from it off of Route 5. As you well know from your press conference this morning, it is extraordinarily difficult to navigate around the outer harbor. All you’re doing, whether you know it or not (and whether you care or not), is hindering and delaying the improvement of that access.
Right now, it takes a four-mile circuitous route to get from Buffalo’s inner harbor to her outer harbor. I know you’re all atwitter about the Boulevard Alternative petition that BRO has been linking to, but how many of you have signed Brian Higgins’ online petition calling for the Skyway to be removed? Why, frankly, isn’t the so-called “Waterfront Coalition” working hand-in-hand with Brian Higgins to help him in his efforts?
The removal of the Skyway isn’t just something that isn’t on the table right now – it hasn’t even entered the house. It is not under consideration by the state DOT, and even if that entity decided today to look into it, we’re talking years before we’d see anything actually done. And even then, after all the vetting and public comment, we’ll probably have some kooks calling for it to be retained in whole or in part.
So, let me get right down to it:
Do you really think that the man who wrote this letter would support – even for a minute – a project that would in any way hinder or delay the removal of the Skyway?
Back during the whole imbroglio over Larry Quinn’s idea to site Bass Pro on the site of the Central Wharf, just about every one of you – BN Riverkeeper, New Millennium Group, Campaign for Greater Buffalo, etc – argued that the 2004 Master Plan must be adhered to because it had undergone a considerable period of public comment and vetting, and this is what the “community consensus” called for – green space on the site of the Central Wharf.
Yet now, you would completely supplant the consensus reached through the DOT’s public comment and vetting period with your own vision. You are not being consistent. No rules are perfect, but we set things up as best we can and we play by them. Everyone succumbed to your insistence that the Bass Pro proposal ran counter to what the public wanted. Perhaps that victory is what emboldened you to now completely jettison the principles that helped you with the inner harbor. Oh, and incidentally – Brian Higgins, whom you now oppose, helped kill that Bass Pro plan.
Yes, the Skyway is still there. Guess what? Under the Boulevard Alternative, it would look exactly the same, except there would be one more travel lane in each direction on the new road. The Skyway will still be there, because as of right now there are no plans whatsoever to remove it. That is a whole other issue, and a whole other battle.
I corresponded today with Rep. Higgins’ office. It is his intent to push forward with Skyway removal, and he believes that the current DOT is a better catalyst for that outcome. If commuter and truck traffic can be re-routed via the Tifft Street Arterial, then the DOT can give serious consideration to removing the Skyway, which would then ultimately be eliminated from that second rendering – in which case we would have a 4-lane Fuhrmann Boulevard, rather than the 6-lane roadway advocated for by the Waterfront Coalition.
The Embarcadero, the Gardiner, and other elevated highways that immediately abut downtown cores are not comparable to this Route 5. Embarcadero : San Francisco as I-190 : Buffalo. Instead, San Francisco and Toronto show that, contrary to the claims, elevated highways are not some massive impediment to a city’s development. Poor access is an impediment, and that’s half of what the battle has been with respect to the outer harbor. The other half – inactive NFTA management – has already been solved.
Let’s not impede further a plan for improving access to the outer harbor. Keep it up with the overwrought, false rhetoric; delay improvements to waterfront access so much as one day, and I’ll oppose you vehemently. Let’s instead move forward with the current, approved & contracted-for plan, and then redouble our efforts to re-route Route 5 via Tifft Street, and getting rid of the Skyway for good. It will be win-win. And I would join you.