Buffalo's love-hate relationship with the Skyway is out of sync, Higgins says

Oct 9, 2019

Getting rid of the Skyway does not involve reinventing the wheel, but going back two centuries to Joseph Ellicott's original design for Buffalo.

Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo) has been agitating for years to get rid of the Skyway. The issue has been how to get tens of thousands of cars carrying daily commuters to and from work without the Skyway.

The South Buffalo Democrat is proposing using Ellicott's radial street network and the latest in traffic signal sychronization equipment to persuade drivers to use streets like Broadway and South Park and a new road into downtown Buffalo from Tifft Street along rail lines - all lights synced. Higgins said that is how Pittsburgh's light system works.

"Which has been highly effective and fully implemented," he said. "We are funding, as part of this project, that signal synchronization program in Buffalo, at numerous intersections. And the experience in Pittsburgh is that they've reduced commuting times by 25%-40%. They're reduced emissions by 20%."

Higgins said there is already $20 million to synchronize 450 local intersections, persuading drivers to use the old routes. He said that would encourage economic development by bringing all those drivers back through neighborhoods, which could be revived if the drivers shopped and spent money along the way.

"We're talking about applying that to streets that we think will become preferred commuter routes for people originating both out of the southtowns and out of Cheektowaga and Lancaster," Higgins said, "but the secondary benefit we'll have is it will have an economic development influence."

Between 450 synchronized traffic signals and the new connector, he said commuters will not miss the Skyway. Higgins said times have changed and the Skyway is worn out and outdated.

"Relative to waterfront development, relative to downtown development, relative to Buffalo River remediation and the redevelopment of that," he said. "Keep in mind, when the Skyway opened in 1956, the river was full of industry, but was serviced by Great Lakes freighters. Now the river no longer has that industry and it's filled with kayaks and canoes and recreational boats."