The New York Power Authority board of trustees approved funding Tuesday of up to $2 million for preliminary engineering and environmental review for the first phase of the Niagara Gorge Corridor Project, which is intended to facilitate unimpeded pedestrian and bicycle access to the gorge rim from City of Niagara Falls neighborhoods abutting the Robert Moses Parkway while making possible the restoration of natural landscapes along the gorge.
"The Power Authority is happy to be able to help kick-start the initial phase of the Niagara Gorge Corridor Project," said John R. Koelmel, NYPA chairman. "We recognize the significance being placed on this initiative and, for that reason, have approved a funding agreement with the USA Niagara Development Corp. for preliminary engineering and environmental review for this stage of the project."
The Niagara Gorge Corridor Project will seek to develop an appropriately scaled transportation network to link together existing and proposed roadways, attractions, overlooks, trails and cultural and historic sites, while improving vehicle, pedestrian and bicycle access and safety features along the Niagara Gorge corridor. It will also lead to the reclamation of the natural landscapes and vistas the gorge offers.
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, in coordination with the New York State Department of Transportation, the City of Niagara Falls, USA Niagara Development Corp. and the Village of Lewiston, prepared a final scoping report for the NGCP. The report reflects significant input from interested parties in the region.
The report provides comprehensive options for the redesign and repurposing of the parkway. There is consensus for one of the options involving the removal of a two-mile section, from State Route 104 (Main Street) to Findlay Drive in Niagara Falls, as a precursor to the planned recreational and environmental improvements.
The planned preliminary engineering initiative is the first step in carrying out the consensus option. The up-to $2 million in NYPA funding will be applied for the design and planning for the following:
•Removal of bridges and other features of the Route 104 to Findlay Drive section of the parkway;
•Landscape and habitat restoration of the land being reclaimed by the parkway removal; and
•Reconstruction of Whirlpool Street, which adjoins the parkway, to provide all north and south access for this portion of the Niagara River Gorge Corridor.
Operations and maintenance of the parkway are handled by DOT. The Power Authority owns sections of the parkway that exist on land acquired in connection with the construction of NYPA's Niagara Hydroelectric Power Plant.