The seemingly quixotic effort by Rep. Brian Higgins to finally get rid of the Skyway gained ground recently when the state Department of Transportation did a 180 and expressed a willingness to review alternatives.
While it is only a “review,” we'll take it for now.
Higgins has been tilting at that monolithic connector between Buffalo's downtown waterfront and the outer harbor for years, both during his days as an assemblyman and now congressman. He won't stop … and that's good.
DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald gave him assurance that the agency will conduct a “plausibility review” that should give rise to a “meaningful discussion” on the Skyway's future. As Higgins said, this is a seminal moment.
But without getting too excited, let's consider the facts.
Acting DOT Regional Director Darrell F. Kaminski told The News just last September that it would cost $35 million for Skyway decking and painting over the next five to 10 years.
For the cost of extending the Skyway's life – the DOT's Skyway Management Study, in October 2008, suggested it will cost $117 million over the next 20 years – it's worth considering the estimated $75 million to build a pedestrian-friendly bridge to replace the Skyway.
The agency should take a serious look, since it's already considering the removal of the aging elevated Interstate 81 in Syracuse, which would cost an estimated $500 million to replace, and the $5 billion replacement of the Tappan Zee Bridge downstate.
Higgins points to a number of projects and proposals that, taken together, offer an alternative to the Skyway:
• The more than $50 million effort that created an Outer Harbor Parkway at Fuhrmann Boulevard.
• An $11 million project scheduled to get under way next year transforming Ohio Street into a riverfront parkway.
• A study of proposals to connect the inner and outer harbors through a new Buffalo Harbor Bridge.
• A $2.3 million improvement project completed along South Park Avenue.
The Skyway mars acres of prime property at Canalside and another 27.5 acres along Buffalo's outer harbor. Considering the level of waterfront transformation that has already occurred and the demand for further economic development, the Skyway is long overdue for this serious “review.”