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State ready to tear down Skyway, awaits federal approval

File Photo / WBFO News

After decades of talk, it appears the Skyway connecting Buffalo’s Outer Harbor to downtown may start to be torn down sometime this year. 


Outlining his infrastructure plan for 2021 in his State of the State address Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo highlighted removing the Skyway as being in its last stages of approval. 

“We are taking down the skyway, an idea first proposed 50 years ago, and creating a spectacular park overlooking Lake Erie. Our construction team is ready to break ground as soon as the federal approval comes through.”

Buffalo Rep. Brian Higgins has been a long-time supporter of removing the highway.

“Our obligation is to make sure that we findhg the most efficient transportation route for vehicles, and then balancing the significant public access opportunity that this project represents," Higgins said.

A four-lane parkway on mostly vacant land and rail tracks from Tifft Street to the 190 at Seneca Street could replace the Skyway. The freed 45 acres of land would see a new park, essentially connecting the Tifft Nature Preserve to the Outer Harbor.  

“It's gonna be a compliment to the Tifft Nature Preserve because of the linear Park which will be 30 to 35 feet wide," Higgins said. "It will be a distance from the Tifft Nature Preserve,and what will complement the Tifft Nature Preserve is bicycle access and pedestrian access.”

For a project long talked about but never acted on, Higgins believes now is the time, and Buffalo needs a suiting replacement for a post-pandemic environment.

"Work habits are changing, they have changed and some of them will remain permanent with more people working remotely,” he said. “We have surveyed large businesses in downtown Buffalo, where they're talking about mitigating the effect of large groups of people in elevators, large groups of people in public spaces and various buildings. They're already implementing scattered scheduling, where some people will start at six o'clock in the morning, some seven, some eight, some nine. The point is, what we have known as rush hour traffic will change forever. So all of that is being anticipated to the fullest extent that it can be.”

Funding for the project would be 80% federal money and the rest from the state. Costing nearly $600 million, Higgins said money could come from his $1.6 trillion infrastructure bill, which he hopes to get passed by mid-year. If all is said and done, crews could begin tearing down the Skyway by late this year. 

The Skyway was just one of $300 billion worth of infrastructure projects announced by the governor.

He also wants to expand the Javits convention center by 50% and extend the popular High Line walkway. Cuomo also wants to continue the Second Avenue subway into Harlem and complete a third track on the Long Island Railroad.

Upstate, Cuomo said an elevated walkway will be completed along the Hudson River in Albany, the Blue Cross Arena in Rochester will be expanded and a Legoland theme park will open in the Hudson Valley.

“We will make these investments at a time when the interest rates are low and when New Yorkers are looking for work,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo in his Thursday State of the State address

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
Ryan Zunner joined WBFO in the summer of 2018 as an intern, before working his way up to reporter the following summer.
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