By Mark J. Grisanti
The debate over the Skyway has long been at the forefront of the Buffalo waterfront development discussion. With emerging projects like Canalside, HarborCenter and the Outer Harbor Concert series, the Skyway has become even more prominent in the development conversation.
The core of this conversation is twofold: the transportation it provides for commuters from the Southtowns, and development of the outer harbor, which remains one of the longest undeveloped waterfronts in the nation.
We need to look at the facts, and make the most educated decision that we can with this opportunity to make Western New York better. It’s important to remember that taking down the Skyway won’t magically spur economic development on the outer harbor. While it is true that good infrastructure breeds good development, taking down the Skyway won’t be the be-all, end-all in developing the outer harbor.
In my office’s request for public input, we received nearly 100 comments from the community. It seemed that most of those from the Hamburg area were in favor of keeping the Skyway up, claiming it would take them extra time to get to work in the morning through alternative routes. A majority of those in favor of taking the Skyway down lived in the Northtowns – from communities whose residents normally don’t use the Skyway on a regular basis.
It seems Western New York is divided on the issue. Those in favor of keeping the Skyway up cite its efficiency in commuting to the city, while those wanting to take it down claim it is a hindrance to development. Developing where the Skyway currently stands could also mean an end to the frequently used green space next to Canalside.
That being said, I do not believe the Skyway is a hindrance to development on the outer harbor or Canalside. What I do believe is a hindrance is the lack of pedestrian and personal vehicular access from the inner harbor to the outer harbor.
In order to get to the outer harbor, one has to go to the foot of Ohio Street, where it meets Fuhrmann Boulevard and Route 5. If you were standing at the First Niagara Center and you wanted to reach the outer harbor, which is a mere 800 feet away, you would have to travel 3.5 miles to get to the spot directly across the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal.
I am confident that working with all parties involved, including the Erie County Harbor Development Corp., the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and General Mills (which operates on the island between the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal), a successful plan can be achieved that satisfies both those who seek proper development of an invaluable parcel of land and those who rely on the Skyway every day to get to work.
Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, represents the 60th State Senate District.