Robert Moses Parkway North plans stalledby jmaloni
by Joshua Maloni
In the case of the Robert Moses Parkway North, no news is, well, no news.
On Tuesday, a group of people in favor of keeping open this connection between Niagara Falls and Lewiston met at the Red Brick Municipal Building. Former village Mayor Richard Soluri, a member of the Parkway Preservation Committee, told the dozen in attendance that no decision has been made with regard to the future of the roadway. The scoping process, which was expected to end in December 2011, has continued, and the six RMP design proposals unveiled in June 2011 (showing everything from complete road removal to complete restoration of a four-lane highway) have yet to be narrowed to three or four final plans.
Soluri said he has received conflicting reports on the status of the designs and related public input. As such, he is unsure who has the final drafts: Parsons Transportation Group, the agency that created the six designs; the state Department of Transportation; or the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
"We'll just have to wait and see about all of that - all of us," Soluri said.
In any case, he reiterated his group's stance that the parkway is a necessary means of connection.
"The state invested a lot of money in our community; the feds invested money in this community. Why would they now want to remove a road to hurt the community?" Soluri said. "The 'Wild Ones' (the environmental groups seeking parkway removal) will say it won't hurt, because you can come another way. But we need the direct route. And the fact is, the direct route, if it's done right, will attract more visitors - will make visitors go back and forth (between Niagara Falls and Lewiston)."
Lisa Vitello, a member of the Niagara Falls Tourism Advisory Board, said, "You're worried about economics for your community. ... We're worried about the same thing in Niagara Falls."
She said road removal for the sake of beautification and access to natural resources is common across the country - and proven to work - and added, "I've traveled all around the country and, in some places, around the world. I've never not gone to somewhere because there wasn't a direct route."
Niagara Falls historian Paul Gromosiak said, "The gorge here is only seven miles long, and it's best appreciated on foot."
Soluri responded by saying not everyone can walk the paths.
Niagara Falls resident Trudy Christman agreed, and said walking paths are a hindrance for the elderly.
"We are in the automobile age," she said.
"One of the reasons that I come to Lewiston so often is because it's so convenient," Christman added. She had a guest in from Alaska last weekend. That friend, Christman said, would not find it appealing to travel between locations via side roads, and "was amazed at the wonderful parkway that is from Niagara Falls and connects Lewiston and Youngstown."
Ultimately, Soluri expects compromise will prevail.
"I think they're going to take a combination of the various options," he said. "We may end up with a road similar to Canada, which would be two lanes. I don't believe you're ever going to see a four-lane road."