Postscript for the Boulevard Alternative

23 Jul

My oldest daughter is attending a camp located south of downtown this week, which means that I commute downtown with her and then take the Skyway. Yesterday morning I mixed it up a bit and cut through South Buffalo over to Tifft Street to get to Fuhrmann Boulevard, but when the day’s over I have really no choice but to take the Skyway in order to reach her in time.

As everyone knows, the reconfiguration of Route 5 and Fuhrmann Boulevard has already begun, and traffic is re-routed to a new 4-lane Fuhrmann Boulevard that runs two ways on the side of the bermed Route 5 closest to the water. There is a traffic light by Dug’s Dive where traffic from Ohio Street meets Fuhrmann.

The last two days, during the afternoon rush, that road has been backed at least halfway up the Skyway – Monday it was backed up all the way to the Aud. This is solely due to the light at Dug’s Dive, which is a solid two miles down the road from where traffic halted.

The proponents of the Boulevard Alternative to the Route 5 configuration claimed that six lanes worth of surface-level traffic would have been great and created a sense of place and associated whatnot, but it also would have created traffic that has to stop at intersections, thus backing traffic up at rush hour. As much as they decried the horrific noise from traffic on the bermed Route 5, I wonder how and why noise and pollution from 2 miles’ worth of cars, trucks, and buses idling at a red light during rush hour would have been such a significant pro-urban development.

Yes, hopefully sometime in the future the Skyway comes down and the bermed Route 5 becomes redundant due to a Tifft Street arterial, but the former hasn’t been decided on yet, and the latter is some years down the road. In the meantime, the DOT has fulfilled its mission by reconfiguring Fuhrmann and a limited access Route 5 so as to swiftly whisk commuter and truck traffic out of downtown in the direction of the outer harbor, Blasdell, and Hamburg. New interchanges will make access to the waterfront easier so that people can enjoy the new park and whatever else might get developed and built out there on the waterfront.

But in the meantime, the traffic at that light speaks for itself.

59 Responses to “Postscript for the Boulevard Alternative”

  1. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 8:02 am #

    Funny how numerous surface roads throughout WNY can carry the same or more traffic load without backing up. Funny how traffic signals seem to work on the very same rout 5 further south but not in Buffalo. Perhaps;;juts perhaps the traffic jam you describe was due to the heavy construction being done in the area?

    There is no justification for this limited access road to be here. Take the thruway to Hamburg if you are in a hurry.

  2. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 8:34 am #

    @STEEL you silly person.

    1. I said her camp was south of downtown. Why would I traipse all the way southeast to the Thruway, then back west through Blasdell and Hamburg to just have to backtrack up Route 5?

    2. The construction is not taking place on the roadway, but up where the bermed section of Route 5 is located. Apart from a gentle chicane, there is really nothing to affect traffic. It’s four lanes with no intersections or lights until Dug’s Dive.

    3. I urge you to drive along that road and then report back to me on it.

  3. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 8:49 am #

    Well actually I just drove down there last week. Me and about 5 other cars not too much after rush hour. I was actually hoping for the light to turn so that I could look around. Unfortunately I had to keep going along at about 50 mph. I guess my anecdotal experience trumps yours.

    And oh yes there was one construction truck on the road too. So yes there is construction traffic that can affect traffic. The traffic light and temporary nature of the whole locations can delay traffic. Why is it that traffic lights work everyplace else but here. Delaware Avenue does not have 2 mile backups with similar traffic load

  4. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 8:53 am #

    Not too much after rush hour = after rush hour.

    Nice try, but thanks anyway.

  5. Jeff Brennan July 23, 2008 at 8:54 am #

    Alan,

    Have you even looked at the current plan? The current plan looking at the construction documents is to turn Rt 5 into… gasp, a SIX LANE BOULEVARD (with trees in the median) from the Union Ship Canal to Mile Strip Road including a Light at Ridge Road. Kind of reminds me of Sheridan Drive. You are embarrassing yourself on this in my opinion because of this contradiction. Why is a boulevard going to work there but not along the Buffalo portion?

    The pdf is available on the DOT website. If your email can handle 100mb I will happily email it to you.

    Is it the end of the world that the elevated section is getting more life? No. Is it a colossal waste of Tax Money? Yes. Redundant roads are twice the construction and upkeep costs. I know you are against government waste. Most people are.

    As a Buffalo resident, I am highly disappointed that we are not getting infrastructure that will maximize value both in tax dollars spent and in potential for development on the waterfront. This plan improves things, no doubt, and there will be development but not as high value in the tax base sense. We are wasting a significant share of that tax money and missing a chance for something better, in my reasonably informed opinion.

    Please look at the plan and explain the above question. Respectfully yours. Jeff.

  6. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 9:02 am #

    The answer has to do with the Skyway, which there is no plan right now to remove. To have a light within 2 miles after the foot of the skyway appears to be FAIL, based on the traffic at rush hour over the past several weeks. Also, between Union Ship and Blasdell there are lots of roads that run off of Route 5, which eases the traffic volume as you go through Lackawanna by the steel plants. No such luck further north.

    The development along the outer harbor, or lack thereof, has very little whatsoever to do with the presence of a bermed highway there. It has lots to do with a shrinking population, a crappy economy, poor planning, NFTA ownership of the outer harbor for 50+ years, etc., etc.

    The first step is to get access to the waterfront to be better. Then we need a plan for Skyway replacements. Then we need to talk about a roadway of some sort to get trucks efficiently between the South Buffalo and Lackawanna industrial developments and the interstate. Then we can talk about Skyway removal and a more at-grade street grid.

    What I’m telling you is that there is a 4-lane boulevard at the foot of the Skyway right now, and it’s not working.

  7. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 9:03 am #

    Well Pundit, Are you suggesting that this superhighway is justified by the 2.5 hours a day that Buffalo has rush hour traffic?

    Like I said Hamburgers can easily take the Thruway instead. I understand that there was a study showing that the people of hamburg were in favor of eliminating the bermed portion of route 5 and that would be appropriate since the very same road is not a superhighway in their fair town. Nor is it in Lackawanna for that matter.

    Somehow there is some mysterious force at work which makes traffic backup only in Buffalo necessitating a super highway.

  8. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 9:10 am #

    Ooo. “super highway”. I wonder what differentiates a regular highway from a “super highway”?

    And why do you keep talking about Hamburg?

  9. Mike July 23, 2008 at 9:13 am #

    MMMM Hamburg

  10. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 9:22 am #

    Because the people of Buffalo really don’t need the skyway to get downtown and the oft cited reason for keeping the skyway is ease of commute from Hamburg.

  11. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 9:31 am #

    I guess Lackawanna and South Buffalo and Blasdell don’t count.

    You can’t just snap your fingers and have the Skyway disappear. In the meantime, you make do with the infrastructure you’ve already got.

    The debate boils down to:

    A. do we improve access to the waterfront and Fuhrmann Boulevard NOW; or,

    B. do we wait an unknown period of time to do so when and if the DOT decides to do a Skyway replacement project.

    I advocated for the former. You advocate for the latter. I think you can’t just reconfigure the roads now as if the Skyway wasn’t there, and it’s better to get people onto the waterfront sooner with an imperfect plan than to indefinitely maintain a horrible scenario.

  12. Jeff Brennan July 23, 2008 at 9:54 am #

    BP, the problem is that there is a traffic light where there are only two outbound lanes not three that can proceed through with each cycle of the light. A 50% increase in capacity is what will be seen everywhere else there is a light. So in a nutshell the current construction project is the cause of the delay due to the lane restrictions vis-a-vis having a light. Keeping 2 lanes southbound while adding a light temporarily is the equivalent of lane restrictions. I advocated for 6 lanes not 4. I understand why you reasoned that a light can’t be close to the skyway but it just isn’t true.

    Your timeline logic does jive if we see decades long delay in taking down the skyway or any further modifications to Rt 5. But this makes my point somewhat that I tried to make back when you where mocking those of us that opposed this incarnation (we wanted a better plan, not No change BTW). By making this investment, THIS WAY, NOW, without the planning you suggest condemns Erie Canal Harbor redevelopment to be under the skyway (not a great selling point for that space), which will make it harder, more expensive and less likely to remove the skyway. IF it does happen and we get to see the removal of the skyway then we all get to pay for and enjoy the reconfiguring of Rt 5 for the THIRD time (major construction and reconfiguring back only 15 years ago). That sounds like a waste of tax dollars to me. Better planning now would have avoided that.

    Also, thank you for restating what most informed people know is the reason for the lack of outer harbor development up to this point. But, I never contended that the bermed highway would prevent development. I only contend that keeping it is more expensive and won’t MAXIMIZE development value for MY city’s tax base. I am irked that the concerns of user’s from other places are limiting the potential of the waterfront and therefore my city’s tax base. But around here we aim low as a rule due to being beat down for 50 years.

    And BTW, I used to work for NYSDOT so I know a thing or two.

    Lastly, it is foolish to plan hundreds of millions of dollars worth of infrastructure on the SOLE assumption that all goods will always be transported with Tractor-Trailors and driving patterns will continue on the trend-line of the last 5 decades. There is a decent chance, and many would argue a strong chance, that how and where goods are transported is going to change dramatically in the next 2-10 years. If you don’t know why then lets sit down for beers sometime soon. You have got my email.

  13. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 10:19 am #

    There were four lanes before and they added a light. If the boulevard was implemented, there’d be six lanes and a light. There would still be traffic backed up, just not as far back. Maybe not to the Aud. Maybe to the foot of the Skyway instead.

    Right now, they’re trying to fix part of what’s broken. The Skyway, as it stands right now, isn’t going anywhere. It’s a process that had taken 15 years, and it was high time something was done. Like I said, better to go with the imperfect plan you can do today than to wait an unknown period of time for a perfect plan that hasn’t yet been approved.

    As for the mode of transportation that will be used in the future, it’s all speculative.

  14. lefty July 23, 2008 at 10:44 am #

    Alan, Steel and Jeff:

    While I am in favor of the skyway coming down, I know there is some powerful forces and reasons to keep it up.

    So here is an idea I want to throw out.

    The biggest challenge I have with the combo plan is the wasted space it will create AND the haphazard development that would follow. This is an estimated guess, but the combo plan will eat up around 25% of the 120 acres for the two roads and buffer zone. That is simply a waste. See Jeff’s first message. If you look at some of the images posted by the Higgins and crew, it looks as if they want to turn the Outer Harbor into an Amherst like office park. With development/parking lot islands. When you consider this is a 50-75 year decision, it is too much of a risk to have this much land be used like that.

    I have also read where Alan suggested to simply lay a grid out and let development happen. I agree with this 100% but I have yet to see or read any plan for the grid from Higgins and company.

    So here is my idea for a compromise.

    Starting at the NW corner where the Pier was located and all the way south to the boat launch. This is around 3300 feet of shoreline. Since the shoreline here is uneven, go in towards Rt 5 anywhere from 20ft to 50ft depending on the shoreline and make this a boardwalk or public space. This line would pretty much be at the back of where Pier was.

    Make this a hard straight line and build a 50ft wide 2 lane road with a bike lane for the BRO crowd. After this road go in 300ft and build a second 50ft road.

    Now going from North to South, build a series of side streets at 50ft each between these two East/West roads. If you did these East/West roads at 400ft, this would give you 8 “blocks” at 300ft by 400ft. This is the same dimensions of several city blocks in downtown Buffalo.

    ONLY ALLOW development to happen in these 8 blocks. This would set the tone for how the outer harbor would be laid out for the next 100 years. This would also not stop the combo plan.

    IF, these lots are built out as I think they could be, the justification would be there to take the skyway down in 15 years. The long term benefits in taxes would outweigh the cost of removal. Yes, the combo money would be wasted but it is NYS…EVERYTHING IS WASTED.

    Now if these 8 blocks sit empty for 10 years or the only things that are low tax producing properties, then keep the combo and call it a day.

    I think this is a reasonable compromise to keep both sides happy. At least for me it is. The concern I have with the Combo plan is right off the bat, development would be haphazardly done and you would get nothing more then 5-8 Health Now complexes out there. While the health now complex is nice and beggars can not be choosers, the outer harbor is IMO one of if not THE last big hand Buffalo has to play in determining the “bankroll” for the next 50-75 years.

  15. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 10:46 am #

    It’s a real shame that the waterfronts of Toronto and Chicago are held back by the presence of highways.

  16. Jeff Brennan July 23, 2008 at 11:01 am #

    So are you saying that if there were a full-length six-lane boulevard, the light that would be needed at Ohio St would be just like the one that will be built at Ridge Rd? Point being that during rush hour it is possible that not all traffic would get through the light on the first try. Seems like that happens in a lot of places in WNY during rush hour and nobody is advocating turning those roads into elevated highways. The traffic load on Rt 5 is in line with the now MOOT full-length boulevard option many of us had previously advocated. Basically, we were right that it would not hardly affect traffic. And certainly would not be Niagara Falls Boulevard as Congressman Higgins and possibly you and your comrades had said. All uninformed hyperbole that undercut a better plan. It is now water under the bridge as we will live with an inferior plan or have to pay MUCH more money later IF the additional changes most agree should happen, ever occur.

    You say that we needed to get done now what we could. True. In case you forgot, the DOT had already studied converting the whole section of road to a boulevard and it was already an alternative in the document. We only found out very late in the review process that the current plan had been chosen to the puzzlement of many who thought that the full-length boulevard would be chosen. I still have no idea why it was but I can speculate that keeping the Skyway was the reason. Strangely, Congressman Higgins supports this plan even though he supports removing the Skyway. Political expediency is the reason. Election cycles demand it.

    No matter, most people will never know what an opportunity was missed. That is until we get stuck with the skyway because this has set the stage for it to be too hard and expensive to remove it or someone points out how much cheaper it would have been in the long run to make it a full- length boulevard right from the beginning. Yes, that would have delayed construction by a year or two. Penny-wise and pound-foolish. Or as we languish under an oppressive tax burden in this state and region, someone in the future might point out that road upkeep would not have been so expensive if there were not two side by side roads with double the curb-miles. With any luck, our regional economy will be so successful that these what ifs won’t be ever thought of. What ifs are only a topic of conversation today, but probably won’t be in the future, because we got it done a bit sooner. Right?

  17. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 11:07 am #

    Chris Smith.

    It really is a shame. The Lake Shore Drive “wall” in Chicago is a travesty. It blocks access and uses up a substantial portion of Lincoln Park. You can not sit at the beach without hearing a continuous roar of traffic. to mitigate some of the problem the city is planning to spend 100’s of millions of tax money to span it.

    It is always a cute trick to compare Buffalo to a far bigger more wealthy city but while the massive economic force that is held by both Toronto and Chicago can over come some of the negative aspects of waterfront highways the truth is that these highways are not benefiting the waterfronts which they plow through. Imagine what these cities could do with their waterfronts without the highways.

    While we are on the subject lets compare to San Francisco as well. What happened when the Embarcadero was removed? Massive growth in property values and development is what happened.

    So what does Buffalo do? It spends millions to lock in a bermed limited access highway for at least 2 more generations instead of planning for what would benefit the citizens of the city for several generations. Short sighted planning that is a Buffalo trademark. What happens when the Skyway bridge needs a $175M overhaul in a few years? Will the argument then be that we can not remove it because we just spent $50M on a revamped bermed portion portion of route 5?

  18. lefty July 23, 2008 at 11:12 am #

    Chris,

    There is one HUGE difference between the Outer Harbor and Toronto/Chicago. That is the Buffalo River.

    Toronto does not have a river to cross. Buffalo does. Because of this, the development in Toronto on the lake side of Gardiner Expressway has several streets that go under both the expressway and the rail yards. This makes it very easy for traffic to flow in multiple directions between the downtown core and the shoreline.

    Chicago has a river but it is much farther inland and essentially the entire downtown core is on the lake side of the river. Added to this, Chicago has 30+ roads that cross the river for street traffic.

    The outer harbor in Buffalo has ZERO surface roads that access the city unless you want to back track away from downtown only to do a U-turn and head back in. Added to this, there is the almost island where the general mills site is located. This give Buffalo the equivalent of two rivers to cross and only one surface street in the Michigan Bridge that GM does not really want anyone else using.

    I really think people would be singing a different tune if Streets like Erie, Pearl, Main, Michigan and Chicago all went directly from Downtown and the 1st ward over the GM “island” and out to the outer harbor.

    It is all about surface traffic. Not access from an expressway. This is why people are behind the blvd. Because it would bring surface traffic to the outer harbor for it’s whole path. Not just some off ramps. It is all about the grid.

  19. Frieda July 23, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    So much interest in an area that most didn’t give a ratsass about before Higgins got involved by securing federal funds.. Now , all of a sudden its a cause celebre to all those never darkend it door, so to speak. And in a city which continues to shrink, It will be another century before anything major happens there.

  20. Jeff Brennan July 23, 2008 at 11:29 am #

    My last post was only speaking to BP’s short comment.

    Chris, thanks for chiming in. Always good to debate with you. I get your humor but as you must know, I never said that our waterfront won’t develop because of the presence of a highway (though in the heat of battle many others probably did and they were off base). And comparing cities with growing populations and therefore more successful economies to Buffalo is not usually a useful comparison since economic conditions and therefore demand are much different. ROI is much lower here since values are much lower due to lower demand but the cost of construction is not much different. Hence the investment spread makes the comparison questionable. In those places, development may have been more aesthetically pleasing without the highways and possibly higher in density or value tax-base-wise but the highway didn’t preclude development, just like it hasn’t and won’t here.

    So since I am only saying the highway makes a difference in the marginal investment level and likewise with the marginal public infrastructure investment/cost, and the marginal tax-base level – where you seriously trying to make that point since BP and I agree on that already, though I suspect some will erroneously imply that keeping the highway will be doom.

    No matter, I am out of time this month, so will join the conversation of something in a few weeks. Cheers.

  21. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    @Jeff:

    If the status quo were to be maintained, traffic would most likely back up onto downtown’s grid, which is already a clusterfuck in and around Church Street between 5 – 5:30.

    What the proponents of the Boulevard seem to forget is that it is a bad idea given the continued presence of the Skyway, and would not have in any way hastened, slowed, or otherwise affected any decision to remove it.

    Higgins supported the current plan because the planning for the reconfiguration of Fuhrmann did not include removal of the Skyway was an option. It was senseless to plan for something that wasn’t set in stone. You can call it political expediency, but Higgins is one of the few pols who has fought for the waterfront over the long haul, and now that he has advocated for something in opposition to the people making up the Waterfront Coalition, they were very, very quick to throw him under the bus over this.

    You don’t start building the terminal if the runway hasn’t been approved yet.

  22. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 11:39 am #

    Steel, so the problem is a lack of a strong economy? Thanks, for agreeing with me. It doesn’t fucking matter where the roads are when the economy is in the shitter, you flaming ball of douche. This whole argument over whether the road should be a boulevard or a highway is bikeshedding to the nth degree.

    The DOT will not remove a major conveyance (the Skyway) until a feasible alternative is in place to connect the inner and outer harbor…that feasible alternative will be Fuhrmann Boulevard. When it is completed, it can be connected via lift bridge (EIS and funding underway) to Route 5 and then the Skyway can and will come down.

    Your argument is based on the roads holding back development when there is absolutely nothing to back that up. It’s not as if we are turning people away from developing the outer harbor because there is a fucking road there. When in fact, the outer harbor has sat in public authority hands for 50 years and no one ever wanted to build there because access was limited at best. So, we improve access in the short term and build out parks, beaches, bike trails, boat docks, hot dog stands, skate parks, and parking and let people enjoy it. Mass and community precedes buildouts…

    Finally, LSD is a travesty? Fucking hell, you have got to be kidding me!?! It’s a shame that the miles of beaches, bike trails, museums, and parks along Chicago’s waterfront are so begrudgingly used by the populace. When I lived there, I could barely stand enjoying the lake because of the faint hum of a bustling city behind me. Watching movies in Grant Park was barely possible what with the horrible highway all around me.

  23. lefty July 23, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    Frieda,

    What Buffalo have you been living in.

    The skyway has ALWAYS been a topic of conversation on how big of a mistake it was. From my perspective, people hated it but did not see it ever coming down. I mean that would be doing something right and that is NOT what Buffalo does most of the time.

    As for the conversation you claim to be started by Higgins… it was really started when the NFTA gave up the land. Until that came into play, there was no point in talking about the Outer Harbor.

  24. Frieda July 23, 2008 at 11:42 am #

    It took 40 years to get Waterfront Village to this point, and there still are empty parcels. How long will it take to get development on the outer harbor to a point where one road option over another will be a compelling factor? At least a century.And thats only if the population of Buffalo stabilizes and the metro core hasn’t shifted north of Amherst by then.

  25. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 11:48 am #

    Chris Smith

    I have never said the highway holds back development. I do say that the backward planning common in NYS and WNY in particular as evidenced in the route five plan does. And if you think Grant Park and Lincoln Park are actually improved by Lake Shore Drive then we are living in different universes. Imagine the development that would occur in Chicago if it were not for a giant blocking highway between the place where people live and the place they would like to play. But hay lets just keep comparing a wealthy metro of 10M to a poor metro of 1.1M as a way to prove that highways actually enhance a waterfront

    As for your insult, I will not let it bother me because that is the kind of discussion I have come to expect from this site and from you in particular.

  26. Frieda July 23, 2008 at 11:49 am #

    Lefty, How old are you 12? When the skyway was built and for years after Buffalo thought it was the best thing since apple pie. Why? because the outer harbor, which was not called the outer harbor until years after Baltimore coined the phrase, was all heavy industry. Unless you stored your boat at the small boat harbor , or went ice fishing in the winter, you would have had not interest in the area.

  27. lefty July 23, 2008 at 12:08 pm #

    Frieda,

    Good points. I think the question is how low can Buffalo go?

    Yes, it has been in constant decline for the last 50 years. Odds are it is going to get worse. But how much worse can it get?

    From my perspective is Buffalo and WNY as a region, simply has too many assets to die off. The “rebirth” is not here. No matter what BRO says. But I do see it coming. It could be in 10 years or 40. Who knows but it will come. The reality is Buffalo needs to break. I think it is on the verge of doing so. Patterson just announced that he is not going to sign legislation to make either control board soft. This is good news in my opinion.

    I read somewhere that Erie county is the oldest county in the US. That is good news. At some point the scales are going to tip and the votes to protect what used to be will have either moved away or pass away. Kinda cold but a reality.

    I think a couple of things are already in play and a couple more can be done to bring back the region.

    The first is the Great Lakes compact. Water is kinda essential and every great lakes state has come together and said they will not ship water out. I hope it is passed in DC. The other thing that needs to change is the power distribution. Instead of giving it away to industry, it needs to go to technology. If this were to happen, I feel the region could land a massive data center. They are being built around the US. What they look for is cheap land and cheap power. WNY has both to give it they pull their head out of their ass. These centers are magnets for tech companies….which in case any did not know is the future.

    Anyways, I think the swing will happen where WNY becomes pro-business and not run by labor. Not sure when but I think that day will come. When it does, I really feel that Buffalo will grow in similar proportion to 100 years ago. There really is no other long term option BUT to grow and grow with non-labor jobs. At least the way I see it.

    When this happens, Buffalo will need space to grow. It will need space that is not near broken neighborhoods. It will need new quality housing stock, not the shit the city builds. The ONLY place this growth can happen in mass is downtown or the outer harbor. The benefit to the outer harbor is it is dirt and not parking lots.

    In 10 years, the Outer Harbor could hold 10k people. No use in doing anything with it unless that can happen IMO.

  28. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    Yes, LSD has served as a barrier to development of the waterfront in Chicago, in a very beneficial way. Green space, beaches, parks and pedestrian/bike routes have been reserved without the ever encroaching condo towers. If LSD was not there (and ordinances which prohibit development on many sections east of LSD/an open lakefront policy), your waterfront would be primarily walled off with private ownership. It’s a tip that most people who live/lived in Chicago don’t give a rats ass that there is a road along the lake. They like it just fine and that is proven by the millions of people who make use of the lakefront every friggin year.

    Why is it that we can compare Buffalo to Seattle, SF, Chicago, and NYC when you or the writers at BRO set the calculus for the argument (infill, arts, culture, economic development) but we cant do it on this issue? It’s rather disingenuous and tedious.

    The presence or non-presence of a roadway along the waterfront is not an inhibitor to local economic development. The economy is an inhibitor to waterfront development.

    As I often posted in the 75 earlier threads on this nonsense…

    Before we debate any further, it would be educational to determine what it is one wants to accomplish on the waterfront. Do you want access? Pedestrian friendly? Development? What else?

    What in the current plan or the NYDOT boulevard alternative plan either incents or disincents any of those goals from happening. If the current plan does not prevent those critical factors from being accomplished, we have a discussion. If not, we have a subjective argument over what you like versus what I like, which is pointless.

  29. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 12:22 pm #

    @STEEL:

    As for your insult, I will not let it bother me because that is the kind of discussion I have come to expect from this site

    Maybe Elena could censor the comments for you. Because we all know how delicately urbane the discussions get at BRO.

  30. lefty July 23, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    Frieda,

    I am 32. The skyway is over 50 years old IIRC. The outer harbor or whatever the fuck you want to call it has been empty for the most part my whole life.

    The skyway was built during the early stages of the decline. It was a short sighted mistake IMO. Just as the 33 and 90 were as well. The “leaders” did not look towards the future and only the present. A Buffalo tradition for the last 60 years.

    The reality is NOTHING is out there now. Industry is not coming back to the volume needed to justify a 110ft bridge. The ERIE CANAL is done. They skyway was built to service lake freighters not for access to industry.

    I am not some preservation hippie. I say tear down every fucking grain elevator, every old industrial building, tell RiverWright to fuck off and let industry on the Buffalo river die. If industry comes back, move them to the Bethlehem site. That has 2 miles of lake access.

    If they want to use grain elevators, have them build new ones in a better location. Hell, make the entire outer harbor a golf course.

    I just don’t buy into the plan of “it’s gonna work out” because Higgins provided some pretty pictures. If Buffalo is not ready for massive outer harbor development, leave it the hell alone! Plant some trees and call it a day.

    Go big or go home…

  31. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 12:32 pm #

    Stop you are making me laugh. Now you are saying that people in Chicago have Lake Shore drive to thank for Chicago’s open lakefront and beaches? Puhleeeaze!

    Stop saying that people peg the elimination of the skyway to Buffalo’s economic health. No one said the Skyway is stopping development. You are the only one repeating that.

    I am saying the water front will be better and more attractive without the skyway and therefore more attractive to development. I am saying that the current plan is wasteful and locks in elements which will inhibit possible development. The fact is that limited access highways are damaging to urban environments. Removal of highways in favor of multiple access grade level roads has proven in several cities to be a tremendous boon to development and property values. See Seattle, Milwaukee, San Francisco.

    Why are we locking in a limited access highway for such a small amount of traffic? What is the benefit? why are we locking in near certain maintenance costs to keep the skyway bridge?

    What I want is for Buffalo to aim high and expect more. You seem to be asking for the lowest common denominator.

    Tell me exactly why this short stretch of roadway needs to be a limited access highway? What is the justification for a limited access highway at this location?

    And BP…I have never hurled any insults at you or any other commenter on any of my BRO stories or within any comment to any story I have responded to here or there.

  32. lefty July 23, 2008 at 12:38 pm #

    Chris

    SPOT ON!!!

    “Before we debate any further, it would be educational to determine what it is one wants to accomplish on the waterfront. Do you want access? Pedestrian friendly? Development? What else?”

    Maybe WNYmedia could do a poll of developers. Not Buffalo developers but developers around the US. Not sure where to get a list but someone needs to contact the developers with enough “juice” who could develop a complex of buildings without blinking an eye. Developers who have actually completed several massive projects.

    Ask them what they want. Ask them what they think needs to happen. Ask them what they would need to see for them to put up coin and develop in Buffalo.

    If the majority of developers say nothing special is going to happen out there, then people like me should STFU and take our toys home. However, if the majority of developers say X could happen but A,B,C and D need to happen first, we should listen.

  33. Jeff Brennan July 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm #

    @BP – You are guessing without any facts on “traffic would most likely back up onto downtown’s grid” if you are talking about 6 lanes. I thought you agreed that with the recommended 6 lanes it wouldn’t be that bad. I contend it would be fine. It certainly wouldn’t be a problem to connect the existing skyway to a 6-lane boulevard. You state otherwise categorically. I believe the facts are not on your side of that.

    If Higgins will allow the skyway to stay then his position makes sense and we all could then just argue over URBAN planning theory.

    Chris, public access and green space is already at the edge of the water. Higgins did good work there. So why is it that you need to know what is going to go there first? We should build infrastructure that maximizes the private investment and just happens to be very appealing to. Not a coincidence. In this case we just aren’t doing it as smartly as we could have.

    But, since I have never been able to sway you or Alan in your public intransigence I see no reason to even try ever again. Thank you for caring a lot about Buffalo. I do to but I can’t waste time talking facts when people don’t worry about facts. Now to delete this site from my favorites…

  34. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 12:53 pm #

    @STEEL

    The fact is that limited access highways are damaging to urban environments. Removal of highways in favor of multiple access grade level roads has proven in several cities to be a tremendous boon to development and property values. See Seattle, Milwaukee, San Francisco.

    I thought it was – ahem – a “cute trick” to compare Buffalo to bigger, successful cities. Yet you cite three bigger, more successful cities when it suits.

    In any event, there is no “urban environment” on the outer harbor. There never was. As far as we know right now, there never will be. There aren’t any plans for it, in any event. So it’s a moot point, at best.

  35. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 12:56 pm #

    I don’t need to explain anything, the version of the plan which I support is already being implemented and there are dozens of position papers, EIS statements, renderings, and planning documents which lay out that vision.

    You’re the one who is dissatisfied with a roadway that is located 500 miles from your house. Also, you didn’t answer any of my questions, this is just your subjective interpretation of what is “good progress” versus the subjective determination of others. Totally pointless argument.

  36. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 1:00 pm #

    Jeff, why are you walking away? Sorry that I have not addressed your points in an attempt to have a reasoned discussion with us. I got sidetracked trading insults with Steel. I value your contributions, if you stick around we’ll chat about them.

  37. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 1:12 pm #

    @Jeff – that’s right, because apart from what’s actually happening there right now, everything is a guess, including your supposition that we won’t be using trucks much longer. For all we know, gas could be back to $1.80/gallon by this time next year.

    The public investment in the outer harbor should be limited to the planning and implementation of infrastructure – roads, utilities, signage, and zoning. That’s it. Everything else should be left to the private sector and there should be no mega projects or master plans or master developers for something for which there is no known demand.

    As I’ve stated ad infinitum, I’d rather improve access to the area now, and the plan being put into place now does that just fine. If anything, an argument could be made that the bermed roadway will minimize snowdrifts on the roadway and blocks the view of the dilapidated, rusting grain elevators and the stinky river off to the east.

    If you’re going to take your ball and go home because you can’t get me to agree with you, then that’s just silly.

  38. Frieda July 23, 2008 at 1:16 pm #

    Well lefty, I was right, you were much too young to remember. By the way, using the word Fuck doesn’t impress me one bit. In fact you can add cunt , prick, feltch , and I still won’t be impressed. And it doesn’t shut me up. But unlike you, I remember when the skyway opened. And , contrary to your hypothesis, this region was far from in a decline. Bethlehem Steel was still expanding (reached it maximum employment in 82) , Republic was in full swing, Hanna furnace was in fulll operation, the whole industrial area of buffalo/lackawanna/hamburg was interlaced with the south buffalo railroad. . And downtown had 4 department stores. So in that time and place, it was not a mistake. It was a source of civic pride, and believe it or not a tourist attraction.

  39. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 1:32 pm #

    @Pundit

    I Did not start the comparison precedent. You can not defend your argument using bigger cities and then condemn me for it. @Chris Smith used bigger cities as proof that highways enhance waterfronts. I used bigger cities as poof that removal of highways enhance waterfronts even more.

    @Chris Smith- so everyone has to explain their reasoning and argument but you? So since there are studies that makes the plan under construction the best that there is or ever could be? These studies make everyone else a flaming ball of Douche? Just because it is being done makes it good? I guess that you are in lock step with all the great decisions and policies that NY already has in place because ..well…they are in place.

  40. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 1:38 pm #

    @STEEL: Ah, tut-tut. I actually very consciously did _not_ compare Buffalo to any other cities in my post. I could have, but did not. Why? Because I anticipated the “you-can’t-compare-Buffalo-to-Toronto” counterargument, and decided to forego it.

    Nevertheless, the point remains that you’re arguing about urban planning when there is nothing planned and nothing urban about the outer harbor. Last I checked, it consisted of some dilapidated warehouses, a bike path, a marina, and a hot dog stand. There is no urb there despite its location within the corporate boundaries of Buffalo.

  41. lefty July 23, 2008 at 1:44 pm #

    Frieda,

    I was not asking you to shut up by using the word fuck. In fact, I WAS enjoying the debate.

    The region has been in decline since the 50’s. Sorry you do not see that.

    Here are some other numbers. Less than 1% growth in the 40’s and 50’s. This is after a 13% increase in the 30’s. I am sorry if you can not see that drop in growth as a GIANT BILLBOARD the region was in trouble. Yet it gets better. You have a 8.2% decline in population in the 60’s, 13.1% in the 70’s, 22.7% in the 80’s.

    You can talk about Steel but what about the Grain. After all, the grain elevators and that industry was the main reason for the skyway. Those started to die off just after the damn thing was built.

    As for you comments on Steel, pick up a book. Hanna Furnace close in 82. Republic Steel and Shenango Steel ceased operations in 82 as well. The writing was on the wall for Steel in WNY going back to post WWII and the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway. So excuse my french but you are little full of shit.

    As for Bethlehem, in your magical year of 82′ the reported a RECORD loss of $1.5BILLION. The first of 5 consecutive years. Oh yea, they closed the fucking doors in 83. As for shopping on Main, just give it to 85 when the Metro was built. Another grand short sighted FAIL in the history of Buffalo.

    The sad truth Freida is you are a part of the generation that needs to “fade out” before Buffalo comes back. Take your time, I am in good health and really more focused on what is left for my kids and grand kids. Something your generation did not focus on. Which is why Buffalo is such a mess today. Thanks for nothing.

  42. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 1:52 pm #

    So @Pundit since nothing is planned we should plan for nothing? That sounds pretty logical to me.

    As for the Toronto comparison, even if you allow comparison to a city 8 times Buffalo’s size with magnitudes more wealth are you actually suggesting that Toronto’s waterfront would not benefit from removal of the highway? Are you saying the highway makes that waterfront better?

  43. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 2:02 pm #

    Steel says;

    @Chris Smith used bigger cities as proof that highways enhance waterfronts.

    Actually, what I said and will continue to say is that the presence or non-presence of a roadway along the waterfront is not an inhibitor to local economic development. The economy is an inhibitor to waterfront development.

    You are the one arguing that waterfront roadways are a deterrent to development and/or use, so defend it. I’m saying that the presence of the road along the waterfront doesn’t really matter and that economies determine development.

    I’ve said it in the 15 posts I wrote on my blog, the WNYM frontpage and in every comment on every site about this Route 5 issue since Day One.

  44. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 2:03 pm #

    No, Steel. You’re probably right.

    If they built the Boulevard Alternative, the trees would sing, the birds would fly, rainbows would fly over it daily, and Buffalo would swell back to 500,000 inhabitants, half of whom will make up a bustling outer harbor urban development made up almost exclusively of Whole Foods, SpOt Coffee, hemp stores, and hot dog vendors. There would be ample bike parking, trucks would be banned, and kids would walk with their black labs to the outer harbor charter school, set up so they wouldn’t have to move to Clarence or pay Nichols/Elmwood-Franklin, or go to school with the hoi polloi.

  45. Snarky Snarkmore McSnarkamaphone July 23, 2008 at 2:06 pm #

    I’m sorry, wtf?

    For all we know, gas could be back to $1.80/gallon by this time next year.

    You can’t honestly believe that’s conceivable.

    It’s hard for me to believe this topic merits 42–whoops, 43–responses. “Construction causes traffic delays…” shocking!

  46. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 2:12 pm #

    @pundit,

    No, That is what YOU are saying. Of course if you never plan for something better you will never get anything better. So, you can make fun of planning for something other than speedy car travel but the fact is if you make an environment attractive to people they will tend to want to be there.

    You advocate for the status quo and that is what you are going to get.

  47. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 2:13 pm #

    Are you suggesting that Toronto’s waterfront would not benefit from removal of the highway? Are you saying the highway makes that waterfront better?

    The Toronto waterfront is accessible, fun, open, and filled with parks, activities, and destination fun. People can access it from anywhere, park if they desire…and they do.

    So, removing the primary means of conveyance for people to get to the waterfront from the entire region would devalue it, yes. Especially when the highway is not an inhibitor to usage or growth.

  48. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 2:21 pm #

    @STEEL: What plan are you talking about? There _is_ no plan. What’s _your_ plan, aside from carving an at-grade 6-lane boulevard down the middle of the outer harbor?

    To quote Getrude Stein, there is no there there.

    To quote the prototypical Mainer, you can’t get there from here.

    Here’s how the argument with you goes:

    Me: The boulevard alternative would have sucked. I’m glad it didn’t go through.

    Steel: No. We should have an at-grade road because route 5 stifles progress.

    Me: No. A shitty economy stifles progress. The road is barely relevant, although it’s good that we’re improving access to the water.

    Someone brings up Toronto, Chicago, Boston, etc.

    Me: These cities prove that the roadway is irrelevant. It’s the economy and demand that really matter.

    Steel: It’s unfair to bring up these cities because their economies are so much better than Buffalo’s.

  49. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 2:36 pm #

    @Pundit, @Chris Smith,

    I am not talking about the economy I am talking about sound urban planning. You can plan well even in a bad economy. A bad economy is not an excuse for bad planning. And No I do not have a plan. I have not been hired to do one. That does not mean it can not be done. Are you suggesting that since I do not have a plan in my back pocket that their is no possibility of there being something better than the one foisted on the city?

    As for Toronto it seems that their highway is such a successful enhancement to their waterfront they have engaged in a debate and probable action to dismantle the Gardener in order “enhance” development on their waterfront.

    Here is one link. I am sure there are many more
    http://www.raisethehammer.org/index.asp?id=739

    Maybe you should call them up and tell them that the highway is an is the best thing they ever did to the waterfront and should not come down.

  50. Buffalopundit July 23, 2008 at 2:55 pm #

    Maybe you could call Toronto and tell them that all the new condos and ancillary goods & services on the water side of the Gardiner are a mirage.

  51. STEEL July 23, 2008 at 3:05 pm #

    They are not willing to settle for a few condos. They can see that there is much more potential locked in their water front. Maybe that is why Toronto is what Buffalo isn’t.

    But anyway, Buffalo is doing it the Buffalo way. Lock in an expensive to maintain bridge and build two roads where one would suffice.

  52. Frieda July 23, 2008 at 3:47 pm #

    Lefty, first your figures are wrong. Buffalo lost population, as did most core cities in that period, but The SMSA continued to grow until 1980 when it reached 1.3 million. (Per the Bethlehem steel website, the max employment at Bethlehem was indeed 1982). And what does hanna furnace closing in 1982 , or Bethlehem in 1983 (only in part) have to do with the decision to build the skyway, which openced in 1955. Two decades earlier. As far as that shitty fading out remark, unless you are young dynamic entrepeneur , some job generating dynamo, why don’t you fade out.

  53. Andrew Kulyk July 23, 2008 at 5:14 pm #

    @Pundit–

    “If they built the Boulevard Alternative, the trees would sing, the birds would fly, rainbows would fly over it daily, and Buffalo would swell back to 500,000 inhabitants, half of whom will make up a bustling outer harbor urban development made up almost exclusively of Whole Foods, SpOt Coffee, hemp stores, and hot dog vendors.”

    Shame on you Pundit you forgot to mention IKEA… Also, all buildings must be built out to the street with parking in the rear, or better yet, underground. Plus… NO Wilson Farms. Wilson Farms bad bad bad!

  54. Chris Smith July 23, 2008 at 7:02 pm #

    Maybe you should call them up and tell them that the highway is an is the best thing they ever did to the waterfront and should not come down.

    Good on ya for miscasting the argument completely to suit your snarky needs! Look at the big brain on Dave!

  55. Jon Splett July 23, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    Here’s how we fix this….

    We build the casino underneath the skyway so the bitchy hipsters can focus all their angst in one place.

    Two birds with one stone.

  56. Amused July 24, 2008 at 12:57 pm #

    For a flamewar this one’s pretty boring.
    Outer Harbor essentially controlled by brain dead NFTA for decades. Large piece of northern part too polluted to even go near until recently. Skyway bridge built to speed those fabulous new cars swiftly to the bucolic suburbs away from urban nastiness, with a fabulous view of Lake Erie or downtown thrown in and no waiting for those antiquated lift bridges. Close eyes and hold nose passing through large steel plant.
    Oh, has anyone driven on the outerharbor roads in the winter? At least when they’re not closed by any wind-driven snow? There’s a reason no one lived there voluntarily long before there were elevated roads or highways – wind off Lake Erie in the winter is brutal. That’s gonna impede that area being residential except perhaps for snowbirds.
    Couple of corrections: the Village of Hamburg board, not the town, butted in on the road concept, perhaps to remind everyone it exists. The residents of Hamburg can take the Thruway, but it is longer to much longer depending on where you start. For me it is a half hour drive versus about 14 minutes (even at reconstruction-boulevard speeds). Not really wise if we’re aiming to reduce gas consumption and congestion at the 90/400/190 bottleneck. And a large fraction of rt 5 commuters come from Angola, Evans, Derby, and other points south.
    So someday the skyway will be dismantled, trucks will go to Canada via Lewiston, the Parker truss part of the Peace Bridge will be replaced, and Buffalo and Erie County voters will be entrusted with the politicians they elect rather than needing control board parental supervision.
    But I’m not holding my breath, and in the mean time I’d like to be able to drive efficiently (or bus) to work downtown and yet take my bike for a ride along the lakefront.

  57. MJ July 25, 2008 at 7:59 am #

    from over at Yahoo:

    1977 – Bethlehem reduces steelmaking capacity at Lackawanna and Johnstown. 1977: Bethlehem’s Lackawanna plant employment had declined from almost 20,000 in 1965 to 8,500 in 1977 before further declining to a skeleton crew in 1982. The loss of these jobs results in a major fiscal crisis for the City of Lackawanna and a crisis for Buffalo and towns in Erie County. The effect on the local economy is significant.

    No clue where you get peak employment in ’82 from. That was pretty much near the end of steel in Buffalo except fo the few bar and finishing operations that were spared.

  58. a. realist August 22, 2008 at 5:53 pm #

    Has anyone been to the waterfront after sept ? Do you think people will enjoy shopping with a snowball growing out their left ear on the way from the parking lot ? This is a 4 month area and is a nightmare in the cold months (all the rest) . If you have ever driven along that stretch in the winter , you know why no one will want to be there after the weather turns . The commuters from the south (more than just Hamburg) have the right to expect an efficient roadway and to hell with the dippy little stores and Mickey D’s that will annoy the shit out of people just trying to get somewhere . If you don’t like the new road , just stay on Elmwood where your “village” lifestyle makes sense and stay the hell away from anything south of HSBC .

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  1. Buffalo Pundit » Blog Archive » Hypothesis - August 21, 2008

    […] what I wrote about the actual traffic situation coming off the Skyway during rush a month […]

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