Higgins calling on DOT to consider demolition and replacement of Skyway

May 23, 2016

The future of one of Buffalo’s most commonly used highways may be getting some serious scrutiny. Congressman Brian Higgins is calling on the New York State Department of Transportation to immediately begin an environmental review of downtown Buffalo’s Skyway.

Downtown Buffalo's Skyway extends over the Canalside area
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

Higgins said engineering reports from the DOT categorize the bridge as structurally deficient, functionally obsolete, and fracture critical. He said if the bridge were to be proposed for construction today, it would not be approved, and that maintaining the Skyway could potentially cost more than finding an alternative to replace it.

“According to the State Department of Transportation – not my figures, theirs – the Skyway, to rehabilitate it, would require between $75 million and $125 million. We should reject that as a community. There are alternatives, including a Buffalo Harbor bridge that’s estimated to cost $90 million,” said Higgins.

Higgins said federal money that is allotted to the New York State for critical infrastructure improvements should not be invested in maintaining the skyway.

Higgins said today’s Western New Yorkers should not settle for the status quo of having a roadway design that was forced upon the community more than 60 years ago without considering the needs of residents. He said back then residents felt they had no option but to accept plans from the state and federal levels, and that the attitude of Western New Yorkers has changed towards demanding a say in the region’s future.

Congressman Brian Higgins
Credit Avery Schneider / WBFO News

“Buffalo and Western New York – to realize its full potential as a great waterfront city again – needs to make decisions about its future and not have decisions imposed on us from bureaucrats in Washington and Albany,” said Higgins.

Higgins said a different design could not only be less costly than maintaining the skyway, but could also be more attractive and incorporate better pedestrian access. When asked whether an alternative roadway could accommodate the Skyway’s thousands of daily travelers and rush hour traffic, Higgins said that would be something for engineers to assess as part of the environmental review. He noted it’s the kind of thing already being done in other major cities.

“When Rochester, Syracuse, Toronto are all looking at removing elevated sections of highway, they have to take into consideration the movement of traffic. We obviously want people to get to downtown Buffalo from wherever in the most efficient and effective way.”