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Stretching approximately 18 miles, the Niagara Scenic Parkway, formerly known as the Robert Moses Parkway, stands as a barrier between the City of Niagara Falls and one of the world’s most tremendous natural assets. Built in the 1960's to serve industries along the waterfront —industries that have since vanished — the parkway cut off city residents from the waterfront and inadvertently routed traffic away from the central business districts in Niagara Falls. Now this underutilized highway is showing its age. The parkway’s declining traffic counts prompted the closure of two of the four lanes. This barrier also inhibits ecotourism and the restoration of natural landscapes. The non-profit organization Wild Ones, the Niagara River Greenway Commission, and the City of Niagara Falls have studied the northern section for full removal and ecological restoration.
In February 2013, the State of New York agreed to remove at least a 2-mile portion of the freeway from Main Street to Findlay Drive. The reclaimed land will be restored to parkland. The rest of the parkway is still part of considerable discussion, as only one alternative calls for removal of the full length of the parkway. The final report outlines three alternatives that are open for possible amendments in the future and subject to further environmental study. The project will likely occur in at least two phases, with the first possibly breaking ground in 2014. Advocates wanting full removal are cautiously optimistic that more of the parkway will be removed.
In October 2014, the Empire State Development Board of Directors authorized a grant of up to $10 million for the reconfiguration of a one mile stretch of the Niagara Scenic Parkway in Niagara Falls. The strategic plan outlines measures to increase eco-tourism in the area and re-establish waterfront access to the city. The project will result in the removal of the elevated embankment to at grade, open views and access to the Upper Niagara River and Rapids and will include full landscaping and an access plan with native vegetation, scenic overlooks and multi-purpose trail facilities. The goal is to create a "more fitting gateway experience into Niagara Falls State Park and downtown Niagara Falls."
Alaskan Way started as a rail yard to accommodate the City's industrial needs along the waterfront of Elliot Bay in the 1880s.
In 1915, the elevated freeway, the Georgia Viaduct, was built to circumvent the tidal waters, rail lines and industries below.
In the history of American freeway teardowns, Portland's Harbor Drive holds an auspicious position. It stands as the first major highway to be intentionally removed.