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Experts Say Buffalo's Infrastructure Needs a Make-over

By Joyce Kryszak

Buffalo, NY – Two of the nation's leading transportation and urban development experts have sized up Buffalo's potential. United States Congressman Brian Higgins invited them to study the City's infrastructure problems and to offer ideas on how they could be fixed.

The skyway is bringing people to the City. But not the way you'd expect. Two national urban planners came here last week to present their case for tearing down the elevated highway.

John Norquist is the former mayor of Milwaukee and president of the Congress for the New Urbanism. He called the skyway one of buffalo's self-inflicted wounds.

"Buffalo was a very beautiful city a hundred years ago, or even 50 years ago. It's still a beautiful city today, but not because of the things that have been done in the last 50 years," said Norquist. "Many of them have actually caused damage to the City and one of those is overbuilding of the road infrastructure."

He pointed to other beautiful cities around the world, such as Paris, that have retained their glory. He said roads should connect to one another, the waterfront and to people. And he argues that is accomplished best at the surface level.

Scott Bernstein agrees. He is the president of the Center for Neighborhood Technology. He said there is $350 billion of investment out there looking for somewhere to go. And Bernstein said it is going to places like Portland, Oregon where infrastructure was redesigned.

"Because they were able to tear down the Harbor freeway and reconnect that area there has seen in the last 20 years five billion dollars, so far, in private investment, and likely to be triple that within 10 years," said Bernstein. "And what did Portland, Oregon look like at the time? It looked just like this."

That has been the argument all along of Congressman Higgins. It's one of several arguments Higgins and others have been making and winning many of lately. Higgins points to the Power Authority settlement, removal of the 190 tolls and the NFTA letting go of waterfront land.

"We're not winning these challenges because we argue the loudest, or stamp the hardest - we're winning these because we're right," said Higgins.

Higgins said his conclusions on the skyway are bolstered by the findings in a year-long analysis done by the two organizations. Buffalo was only one of the cities where travel patterns and economic impacts were studied.