NIAGARA FALLS – City leaders are casting doubt on a plan to reconfigure the Robert Moses Parkway at the entrance to Niagara Falls State Park.
The plan would turn the four-lane highway’s southern section into a two-lane “riverway” to slow traffic and connect pedestrians to the water.
But the City Council wants the state to go one step further and tear out all four lanes of the Moses, forcing millions of yearly travelers into the city for parking, food and other amenities before reaching the falls.
Joining the lawmakers is Harvey Albond, who serves on the state park’s advisory board and was instrumental in getting a similar part of the Moses removed three decades ago.
“It may seem paradoxical that I would be coming here to ask you to reject a selection and program of state parks, but I do so deeply from my heart,” he told the Council Tuesday.
“I see no use for this road other than to bypass the city, and therefore I ask your support in rejecting this report and indeed having your staff join me in fighting it.”
Like many in the city, Albond blames part of downtown’s decline on the state, which uses the parkway to funnel millions of tourists to its parking lots each summer.
That parking revenue is a key component in statewide park operations and a major sticking point in the Cataract City.
Lawmakers believe businesses in the city would prosper if tourists no longer had the option of bypassing city streets and zipping into the park on the Moses expressway.
“We want everything to go through downtown Niagara Falls,” said Council Chairman Glenn A. Choolokian.
But others say the state is unlikely to give up the revenue, especially after a design process that is nearing its end after years of delays.
“The disturbing thing here is there is a process, we’ve gone through the process, now we’re at the point where we’re trying to find funding for the project,” said Mayor Paul A. Dyster. “I don’t think it helps to have the City Council now suddenly going in a different direction.”
Plans for the Moses were conceived under a joint agreement signed years ago between the city, State Parks, USA Niagara Development and the state transportation department.
Dyster said the city originally advocated for full removal of the parkway in the city, a stipulation not agreed upon by the state.
“State Parks was adamant they wanted the road to continue and their views as [project] partners had to be taken into consideration,” Dyster said.
The final result was a road where pedestrians – not vehicles – dominate the landscape, Dyster said.
“We felt that was as far as we could get with that and under the circumstances that was a lot better than what we have now,” Dyster said.
But Albond and the Council say that is not good enough.
“They can call it the Riverway but I call it the Niagara Falls bypass,” Albond said. “I find a great deal to be aghast at.”
State Parks officials declined to comment.