Helping Buffalo Avoid Another Freeway Mistake by the Lake

John Norquist and transportation planner Norm Marshall were in Buffalo, New York late last week, alerting Buffalonians to the ramifications of allowing the NYSDOT to forge ahead with an awful plan to maintain an embanked freeway along the city's Outer Harbor and expand an adjacent frontage road. Norquist urged leaders at all levels to put the heat on Governor Eliot L. Spitzer to halt the just-add-concrete plan and switch to another plan that the DOT studied, one that would replace the freeway and frontage road with a single urban boulevard that would set the stage for revitalized mixed-use neighborhoods.

Buffalo Public Radio WNED covered the message that Norquist, Marshall and City Councilman Michael Kearns delivered in both a press conference and in a presetation to the City Council’s meeting on the removal of the Skyway bridge. Local superblog Buffalo Rising shared a podcast from a waterfront reception where Norquist and Marshall addressed local activists and civic leaders.

The Buffalo News story on this issue ran with a photo on the front page of the Metro section and was the most popular story as judged by web hits over the weekend.

Image source: the Buffalo News.

Planner says Fuhrmann /Route 5 project is obsolete

State plan called ‘stupid,’ ‘obsolete’

By Phil Fairbanks NEWS STAFF REPORTER
Updated: 09/08/07 8:58 AM

From the article:
John Norquist stood on the Lake Erie shoreline Friday and issued a warning: Buffalo is on the verge of making yet another colossal mistake. The former Milwaukee mayor, a politician known for remaking his city’s waterfront, said New York State is about to build a freeway that hinders development of Buffalo’s valuable outer harbor. “It’s breathtakingly stupid,” Norquist said of the state’s transportation plan. “There’s no reason to do something so obsolete, so out of date, so weirdly out of date.”

Read the full article at The Buffalo News .

And read a CNU news release calling for a shift to the DOT's boulevard plan (with minor modifications) and view reports and analysis on Buffalo's traffic and development needs created as part of the Highways to Boulevards project led by CNU and its partner the Center for Neighborhood Technologies.

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Buffalo News calls for review of highway plans

Weighing in on the current battle over the NYSDOT highway proposal for the Buffalo Waterfront, The Buffalo News, in Review Highway Decision, states that "[i]t is urgent for Buffalo to develop its outer harbor, but it is also important to do it right. The city needs a vibrant new section, easily accessible and integrated into the rest of the city, not cut off from it. It will pay to take a little time to see if a grand boulevard, without the parallel route, makes more sense."

The Buffalo News concisely captures what's at stake if the NYSDOT plan is allowed to go ahead, "redesigning Fuhrmann Boulevard while keeping Route 5 immediately to its east diminishes the boulevard’s possibilities, since access to Fuhrmann would be restricted and the east side of the road will be largely undevelopable."

However, the editorial raises concerns over the potential delay and withdrawal of funding if the NYSDOT switches over to an urban approach. As with other freeway battles, threats of delay and loss of funding are often cited to maintain the highway status quo.

Switching over to a single urban boulevard approach will not cause significant delays. The NYSDOT has actually already designed a surface alternative for the Environmental Impact Statement. While they selected the highway option instead, the two alternatives performed very similarly in terms of traffic and environmental impact. (Economic development impact was not adequately studied, as the boulevard option would clearly excel in this regard). Switching over to an already developed surface alternative is not a major change of course for this project. The design changes that need to occur with the NYSDOT surface alternative to make it support walkable compact development can be easily accomplished in a short time frame.

norabeck's picture

NYSDOT Commissioner Supports 1950s-era Plan

Buffalo's Business First, James Fink reports in DOT: Connector no detriment to Skyway that DOT Commission Astrid Glynn supports the "Modified Improvement" alternative for the Buffalo waterfront.

Glynn writes in a letter to Congressman Higgins, "While we understand the concerns of Smart Mobility has raised and we share many of the goals, we believe the selected alternative that was identified in the final EIS and agreed to by a wide consensus of stakeholders will be successful at achieving the results both the communities and Smart Mobility was seeking: A walkable, accessible waterfront that will facilitate development in accordance with the city's vision."

The alternative the NSYDOT is supporting retains the embanked freeway and adds a parallel road, Fuhrmann Boulevard, immediately adjacent with no room for development. For more information about the proposal, check out CNU's initiative on the Buffalo Skyway.

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