Business and community leaders on Thursday announced the creation of a 20-person committee that will advocate to keep open the entire northern section of the Robert Moses Parkway.

In preparation for a public scoping process that may start by the end of the year, the Parkway Preservation Committee is planning its own public campaign as state officials look to reconfigure a portion of the roadway between Niagara Falls and Lewiston.

The committee wants to keep continuous access along the Niagara Gorge to Lewiston, according to Village of Lewiston Mayor Richard Soluri.

“What’s important to us is the stretch between Findlay Drive and Devil’s Hole (State Park),” said Soluri, a committee co-chair.

Committee officials believe there may be negative social, economic and environmental effects to come with any closure.

They say they want to engage the public in a dialogue on the issue during the planned public scoping process.

The Niagara Falls Strategic Master Plan, a planning document guiding growth in the Cataract City, calls for a reconfiguration of the Robert Moses Parkway, the northern portion of which connects the city’s downtown to northern towns and villages.

City officials have said parkway reconfiguration is important because it would allow the city to reconnect with its waterfront.

The costs to reconfigure an alternative roadway — Whirlpool Street from Main Street to Findlay Drive in the city — have been estimated at $18 million.

An 18-month public scoping process, led by the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, would involve creation of committees of stakeholders who have the goal of finding a “viable community alternative” for the parkway’s future.

State officials plan to spend a portion of $700,000 to hire a planning consultant that would guide the scoping process.

Dozens of community organizations, led by Niagara Heritage Partnership, have allocated for full parkway removal in the past.

Partnership members now advocate removing more than 6 miles of parkway along the Niagara Gorge.

A possible alternative for traffic mentioned instead of the parkway has been Lewiston Road, or Route 104, which runs through the DeVeaux neighborhood and into Lewiston.

Members of the preservation committee reject any plan that would move traffic to Lewiston Road, because it would then pass through a residential neighborhood that includes an elementary school.

“The parkway is a safe and reliable transportation route,” Christopher Brown, a committee member and member of the Niagara Falls Board of Education, said in a prepared statement. “And the state should instead focus efforts on investing in the parkway to not only enhance its viability as a major roadway, but also as a tourist attraction.”

Most of the parkway was built by the New York Power Authority in 1962 after construction of the Niagara Power Project.

City and state officials are looking to spend almost $12 million to redesign and rebuild the southern portion of the parkway near John B. Daly Boulevard.

Who’s on the committee

The Parkway Preservation Committee, that will advocate to keep all of the Robert Moses Parkway open, consists of:

n Richard Soluri, Lewiston mayor, co-chair

n Sandra L. Mies, president of Lower Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, co-chair

n Christopher Brown, Niagara Falls CPA

n Thomas Kraus, president and CEO of Niagara USA Chamber of Commerce

n Fred Caso, Mount St. Mary’s Hospital and Health Center

n Robert Emerson, Old Fort Niagara

n David Fleck, president of Niagara Falls Hotel and Motel Association

n William Geiben, Lewiston trustee

n Harry Greenwald, Youngstown resident

n Michael Marra, Lewiston trustee

n Fred Newlin, Lewiston supervisor

n Lawrence Nicolette, Edward Jones Investments

n Nancy Orsi, Porter councilwoman

n John Percy Jr., president and CEO of Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

n Neil Riordan, Youngstown mayor

n Carl Sheusi, Sheusi Financial Group

n Lee Simonson, Conference Solutions

n Fred Stephens, Youngstown trustee

n Courtland “Vandy” VanDusen IV, Lewiston resident

n Merton Wiepert, Porter supervisor

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