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Rep. Brian Higgins on Monday called for speeding up the conversion of a dilapidated stretch of Ohio Street into a parkway, warning that delays could cause $5.1 million of $8 million in planned federal funds to be lost if not committed by October 2013.
The 1.4-mile roadway would link the inner and outer harbors at a time when there are numerous projects advancing at Canalside along the Buffalo River and on the outer harbor.
"I believe we can get this under design and construction within the next 12 to 18 months," Higgins, D-Buffalo, said at Buffalo Riverfest Park. "It's a project that will help transform Buffalo's waterfront from its old industrial uses - uses we still celebrate and embrace - to a place of exciting new opportunities."
Higgins said that environmental reviews were done through the Southtowns Connector study completed in 2007, and Higgins noted that Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. has issued requests for qualifications for final design of the parkway, which he said would help expedite the project.
Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, added her support for turning the ragged street tha runs along the Buffalo River into an attractive parkway, as well as a conduit for economic development.
"The Ohio Street corridor has been a vision for Riverkeeper and many of our partners for at least 20 years, and we have an opportunity now to make that vision a reality," Jedlicka said.
"We are at a critical point in our community's history, and we don't want to lose that."
Rick Smith, who on Saturday opened two of the three grain elevators and a former malt house to the public at Silo City, on Child Street, said the parkway was the missing link to connecting downtown with the outer harbor.
"This is the project that can really get this network completed. We've already started at Canalside, we've already started at the outer harbor and I think what we need is the connectivity so you can go from Point A to Point B," Smith said.

email: msommer@buffnews.com