Niagara Gazette

February 11, 2013

State parks sets Feb. 20 meeting to discuss parkway options

Staff reports
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The findings of a state-sponsored review of various options for the future of the northern section of the Robert Moses Parkway will be revealed to the public on Feb. 20. 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation announced Monday its plan to release the draft scoping report for the parkway north and Niagara Gorge Corridor project. The plan covers the area of the Robert Moses Parkway from Main Street in the City of Niagara Falls to the Village of Lewiston.

The details of the report will be made available during an open house that is scheduled from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Cataract Room at the Conference Center Niagara Falls, 101 Old Falls St.

The scoping process dates back to 2005, when officials from state parks, the state Department of Transportation, the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. and the city of Niagara Falls agreed to open up the dialogue with residents in an effort to develop possible alternatives to the existing parkway.

An initial study created six alternatives, including leaving the roadway alone, modifying various sections or removing all four lanes between the Falls and Lewiston. 

State parks officials said the format of the open house will allow the public to review the alternatives derived from the scoping process and to have their questions answered by the state's consultants. Members of the public can also leave written comments. 

Additionally, copies of the plan will be available for review and comment beginning Feb. 20 at the following locations: Niagara Falls City Hall, the Earl W. Brydges Library,  village hall in the Village of Lewiston; town hall in Lewiston, the Porter/Youngstown Library and the Niagara Region Parks Administrative Office at Prospect Point in Niagara Falls State Park.

The report will also be available on line at http://nysparks.com/inside-our-agency/public-documents.aspx.

Written comments on the plan can be submitted until March 20 to: Thomas Donohue, 40 LaRiviere Dr, Buffalo, NY 14202 or via email to Thomas.donohue@parsons.com.

The scoping process dates back to 2005, when officials from state parks, the state Department of Transportation, the state-run USA Niagara Development Corp. and the city of Niagara Falls agreed to open up the dialogue with residents in an effort to develop possible alternatives to the existing parkway.

An initial study created six alternatives, including:

• Alternative 1, which calls for the complete restoration of all four lanes of traffic for the entire parkway

• Alternative 2, which calls for the completion of the parkway’s pilot program to reduce from four to two lanes — closing the southbound lanes —throughout the Lewiston and Youngstown stretches of the parkway and reducing the speed limit.

• Alternative 3, which calls for the parkway to be removed between Main Street and Findlay Drive and creation of two-lane traffic from the city through to Center Street in Lewiston, while keeping the rest of the parkway the way it currently exists as four-lane traffic from Lewiston to termination in Porter. It also calls for the removal of the Whirlpool Bridge overpass.

• Alternative 4, which calls for removal between Main Street and Findlay Drive, including the Whirlpool Bridge overpass, while eliminating the parkway at the New York Power Authority, accomplished by merging traffic with Lewiston Road through roundabouts both at Devil’s Hole State Park and the bridge crossing.

• Alternative 5, which also eliminates traffic by the Power Authority, closes the parkway between Findlay Drive and Main Street — including the bridge overpass — and creates two lanes of traffic through Devil’s Hole State Park. From the Lewiston-Queenston Bridge, traffic would take Lewiston Road to Center Street, while a road would provide escarpment access with no thru-traffic.

n Alternative 6, which eliminates the parkway completely between Main Street and Center Street in Lewiston, with limited park access to Devil’s Hole State Park from Findlay Drive. The parkway would remain open from Lewiston to Porter. Parkway removal advocates have long pushed for elimination of the roadway from the Falls to Lewiston. Soluri and other supporters of maintaining the parkway have endorsed option three. Dan Davis, a member of Citizens for Waterfront Action, also believes the third option would be the best choice. Davis believes economic opportunity and impact is the driving force behind the decision state parks should be making. “I keep complaining about the scoping process ... because (removing) Main to Findlay Drive was part of 2009 application for federal funding,” he said via email. “Parkway removal and reconnection to the city’s waterfront is one of the main goals of the city’s comprehensive plan and is the part of the parkway we should all be concerned with.” Meanwhile, funding whichever option is selected could come down to the efforts of Congressman Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo. Last month, Higgins called for the power authority to finance the removal of portions of the parkway’s north and south sections and announced he’d seek upwards of $120 million from the authority to do so. State parks declined comment for this story.