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Higgins calls for expediting environmental impact study examining future of Buffalo Skyway


Tue, Aug 1st 2017 04:05 pm
Congressman says it's time to invest in an alternative to Skyway
Congressman Brian Higgins wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation commissioner, urging the department to publicly release the schedule for the environmental impact study of the Buffalo Skyway and expedite the study to ensure the Department of Transportation makes appropriate choices in regard to how much money will be spent rehabilitating the Skyway.
The EIS will assess the costs and benefits of long-term changes to the Skyway, which include the possibilities of rehabilitation, replacement and removal. The EIS was authorized in December; however, the schedule for the review process has not been made public. Meanwhile, the DOT intends to spend $27.5 million next year on repairs to sustain the structure for the next 20 years.
Higgins is suggesting the DOT should spend only as much as is required to maintain the safety of the structure, but that it should hold off on any extraneous improvements until the results of the EIS are finalized. He questions the long-term stability of the more than 60-year-old Skyway, which has been deemed "fracture critical." This mean that, if one element of the structure were to break down, the entire Skyway would be compromised, and "functionally obsolete" under federal highway standards, due to its lack of shoulders - a feature that frequently causes the highway to shut-down completely when accidents occur.
Higgins said, "An objective EIS should come to the conclusion that the most cost-effective and safe path forward is to demolish the Skyway in favor of a more modern alternative option, such as a lower span structure or a lift bridge."
"Let's be honest," Higgins added, "The time is swiftly approaching where the Skyway will need yet another paint job, which itself comes with a price tag in the range of $15 million-20 million. How much longer will we throw good money at this badly outdated transportation infrastructure?"
Higgins said he believes the Buffalo Skyway, originally designed to accommodate industrial shipments, has outlived its functional usefulness and hinders waterfront development opportunities. The Skyway, Higgins said, is a "loud, polluting, disruptive, 110-foot-tall piece of unsafe, unreliable, 1950s infrastructure. Do we invest millions of dollars in the past, or build something that meets the needs of our community today?"
New York state is investing more than $58 billion in bridges and transportation projects downstate. In Higgins' letter, he commended Gov. Andrew Cuomo's leadership addressing the state's infrastructure needs, and said he believes replacing the Buffalo Skyway should be a priority for New York.

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