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Higgins says new federal infrastructure bill includes millions for Buffalo

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Chris Caya
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WBFO News
Rep. Brian Higgins says the pending federal infrastructure bill includes money to remove the Skyway.

There may be cash - lots and lots of cash - for major infrastructure projects around Western New York as part of a $1.5 trillion federal legislative package that might pass as early as late summer. That is from Rep. Brian Higgins (D-Buffalo), who said the White House has been involved in talks about the bill slated to be introduced within days.

The South Buffalo Democrat said the Moving Forward Act would cover repairs for the roads, bridges, sewer lines, water lines and all of the rest. Standing in Delaware Park in front of the Scajaquada Expressway, Higgins said there was money for that, too.

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Credit Michael Mroziak / WBFO News
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WBFO News
Higgins said there would be more money to continue changes to the Scajaquada Expressway into a parkway.

"Behind us is the Scajaquada Expressway, which was built in the decade of the 1950s, which took almost 50 acres of Delaware Park, a significant part of the Frederick Law Olmsted design," Higgins said. "We're looking to replace this expressway with a new parkway."

Higgins said the federal bill includes $70 million toward the $90 million estimated cost of the conversion of the Scajaquada to a parkway and work could start as early as next year, if the legislation passes.

There also would be money to cover removal of the Skyway - long a project of his - continue repairs along the Great Lakes and improving lakeshore resilience, with a requirement that 10% of the proposed $50 million must be spent along the Great Lakes.

For neighborhoods, he talked about syncronized signaling from downtown.

"They were once viable commercial districts: Broadway, Genesee, Sycamore, William, Clinton, Seneca Street, South Park Avenue. Synchronized signaling can offer those streets as alternatives to what people now gravitate to, those being the superstructures," he said.

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Credit Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation
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Higgins said the last federal infrastructure bill provided money to transform Buffalo's Canalside from a rendering to reality.

The infrastructure bill would also extend the tax credits that have allowed so many older local buildings to be rebuilt and reused.

"In this bill, we have an increase from 20% to 30% for the next four years for historic buildings' redevelopment, which we think will go a long way toward the further development of downtown buildings, but also older buildings that are in the neighborhoods," Higgins said.

Higgins said the last infrastructure bill, 15 years ago, was good for Buffalo. It included about $60 million that was used to reinvent waterfront and replace Fuhrmann Boulevard with a parkway that included pocket parks and hiking and biking trails.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.