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NY-27: Brian Higgins Way, or the Skyway?

by on July 14, 2008

I hate the Skyway. I drive over it twice everyday of the week, and it sucks. When I moved here in March, it was the thing I was least looking forward to. I must admit that I was pleased when I discovered that Brian Higgins was a strong advocate for tearing the thing down… In fact, it’s one of the key issues of his agenda on his campaign website.

Brian has been vocal in his support to remove the Buffalo Skyway bridge.  For Brian, this issue isn’t about tearing something down, it is about building something up.

Unfortunately, since I’ve been following this, it’s become clear that Higgins hasn’t been able to do a thing to get it done. And apparently, most believe the Skyway is here to stay, according to this story from Business First.

The Buffalo Skyway, it appears, will be around for a while. Maybe a long while.

Efforts to remove the elevated highway gained momentum last year as plans were rolled out for development of the city’s inner and outer harbors. But momentum to tear down the mile-long roadway has slowed.

At a Business First-hosted Power Breakfast last month, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp. Chairman Jordan Levy seemed to drive a stake through the hope of tearing down the 110-foot-tall structure. Standing in the Harbour Club at HSBC Arena, with the Skyway looming directly outside the windows behind him, Levy delivered a punchy response when asked about the prospects of demolishing it.

“It’s not coming down,” Levy said. “It’s just reality. We just have to move on.”

And what does our fearless advocate for tearing down the Skyway say about this?

Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, is a longtime advocate of demolishment and says the battle is not over. However, he concedes that any decision about the Skyway’s fate is years away.

“For the next five or 10 years, the Skyway will continue to be subject to debate,” Higgins said. “As the waterfront continues to develop, it will become more and more apparent that the Skyway sits on and represents hundreds of acres of prime waterfront land that could, and should, be developed.”

I’m sorry, but I thought tearing down the Skyway was a priority for Higgins. His campaign even launched a website devoted to the effort, Skyway Alternatives (warning, extremely slow website) so I can’t understand how this went from a high priority campaign promise to a back-burner issue that we’re apparently supposed to wait 10 years before we can say goodbye to the Skyway? Higgins’ campaign website says “the Skyway, while designed to be functional for the Buffalo of the 1950s, has since become a dangerous and costly eyesore.” If it’s dangerous, why must we wait ten years before we can consider safer alternatives?

And, let’s face it, as The Waterfront continues to be developed, options for Skyway alternatives will become significantly reduced, more burdensome, and more costly. Maybe if Higgins drove over the thing everyday like I do, he’d be less willing to wait ten years to solve the problem. Meanwhile, I have at least another decade of driving on a dangerous highway while Higgins spends his time down in Washington D.C. pretending to be working on behalf of his district.

Brian Higgins‘ website touts the slogan, “Demonstrating Leadership. Getting Results.” Some results. I’m driving daily over the results of his “leadership”.

UPDATE: Higgins’ congressional webpage has this to say about the safety concerns of the Skyway:

The Skyway is a 1.4 mile long, 55 mile-per-hour bridge with no shoulders located 110 feet above Buffalo’s Inner Harbor.  This environment leaves stranded motorists in a very precarious situation, and Buffalo Police records reveal a very high incidence of accidents and fatalities.  Additionally, because of it high elevation at a specific location where it takes some of the worst of Lake Erie’s winter winds, the Skyway is closed so frequently that it is the only bridge in New York State with a mechanized closing system which lights up and tells commuters in distant suburbs when it is closed.  Engineers have also indicated that the tight turning radii of several of the Skyway’s access ramps, coupled with the grade at which they are inclined, are a cause for serious safety concerns – ramps like these could not be built today under current federal highway safety regulations.

I guess just not serious enough that we can wait at least wait 10 years to keep debating what to do about it.

  1. There have been no studies that have shown the Skyway has a higher accident rate than any other comparable roadway. While there is a lot of public misconception about the Skyway (it’s dangerous, it’s frequently closed, nobody uses it) the facts are that it is useful, it’s direct, and it relieves traffic from the mainline thruway. I drove it nearly every day for five years and found it to be one of the easiest roads in the area to drive on.

  2. Brian Higgins has made tearing down the Skyway a big part of his agenda and campain promises. His congressional website and campaign website both explain the safety issues of the Skyway… So obviously he thinks it’s dangerous. I guess our safety isn’t a big priority for him.

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