By Justin Sondel
Niagara Gazette — Today is the final day for the public to submit comments on the Robert Moses Parkway North and Niagara Gorge draft scoping report.
The report, which was first made available to the public during an open house at the Conference Center Niagara Falls last month, details the three remaining plans for the northern section of the road and is available for review on the state parks website. Partial removal or complete removal is included in all three plans.
Randy Simons, a public information officer for the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, thanked all members of the public who have submitted comments and encouraged those who still wish to comment to submit by today in an email.
“Once this comment period is closed we will respond to all input in the final report on all the options presented,” Simons said.
That report will be made available on the state parks website and at other locations throughout the community.
The parkway removal, which has been long debated, would then move into the next phase of the project planning.
“Next up we will be identifying funding to begin preliminary design work and undertake the environmental review work that needs to be completed,” Simons said.
The infrastructure improvements are a cooperative project with local, state and federal governments all taking part.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who counts the parkway issue as one of the driving forces behind his interest in entering politics, said that people should pay close attention to the many small differences between the three plans.
“We’re really looking for input because there are three very different options,” Dyster said during a phone interview on Tuesday.
The two options that include removal to Findlay Drive may look the same at a glance, but small details — like the type of traffic that will remain in the park — can make a big difference in the end result, Dyster said.
For example, one of the two partial removal plans includes keeping one of the parkway lanes as a running and bike path instead of constructing new paths.
Dyster — who is a cyclist — said that cyclists and runners who use that section of the parkway now complain of the road conditions.
“From a cycling perspective it’s not a real good cycling trail,” Dyster said.
The mayor would encourage people of all opinions to get their comments in tomorrow, he said.
“This is the opportunity to make the case,” Dyster said. “It’s on the table. There’s still an opportunity for comments from all quarters.”
No funding source has been identified for the remaining phases of the removal project, which includes both the north and south sections of the parkway.
But officials working on the project at all levels of government have said that they are confident that a funding source will be identified by the time the project is ready to go out to bid.
U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D- Buffalo and Niagara Falls, began representing the Falls this year after winning his bid for the redrawn 26th Congressional District of New York.
In one of his first public appearances in the Cataract City after becoming its federal representative, Higgins called for the New York Power Authority to pay for part of the removal project.
He said that the power authority, which evicted the people who lived in where the road now runs and took the land through eminent domain — should contribute to the removal project, asking that they put $120 million towards the project during the January visit. He also cited the Niagara Power Project’s outsized contributions to the authority’s profits as a reason that NYPA should help fund the project.
“We have a rightful claim to that money,” Higgins said.
The email address to send comments to state parks is: Moses.Parkway.North@parks.ny.gov.