$18 million contract calls for reconstruction of 2 miles of parallel streets along with full program of streetscape improvements
NYPA-funded project will open unimpeded access to Niagara River Gorge, significantly expand recreational space along gorge rim
The New York State Department of Transportation and the New York Power Authority on Friday announced a major milestone in the project to remove an underutilized two-mile stretch of the former Robert Moses Parkway (now called the Niagara Scenic Parkway) along the Niagara Gorge in Niagara Falls, to create a park-like setting that will give residents and visitors alike unimpeded access to the gorge and provide added recreational opportunities. An $18 million contract has been awarded to begin the initial portion of the project, including the full-depth reconstruction of the entire length of Whirlpool Street and a segment of Third Street to accommodate additional traffic upon removal of the parkway. The contract also calls for new street lighting, landscaping, traffic control devices and drainage improvements over two miles of road.
Once complete, the project will replace an underutilized portion of the parkway with open space, scenic overlooks and recreational trails that will open access to the waterfront. The project marks the largest expansion of green space since the Niagara Reservation was designed in 1885.
NYSDOT Acting Commissioner Paul A. Karas said, "Gov. Cuomo's commitment to creating more open space and recreational opportunities has boosted quality of life and economic opportunity for all New Yorkers, and the transformation of the former Robert Moses Parkway into a park-like setting will maintain Niagara Falls' status as a major tourist destination for years to come."
NYPA Chairman John R. Koelmel said, "This project promises to enhance the extraordinary natural beauty of this region and Western New York and make the Niagara River Gorge more accessible to residents and tourists alike. From an economic investment standpoint and from the perspective of building and sustaining a more livable community, the Niagara Gorge Corridor Project has all the hallmarks of being an economic game changer for the City of Niagara Falls and the region."
NYPA President and CEO Gil C. Quiniones said, "The Power Authority always strives to support economic development in the communities where we have facilities and Niagara Falls - home to our flagship power project - is no exception. NYPA is proud to be part of the visionary project to reimagine the City of Niagara Falls and capitalize on the region's natural beauty."
The three-part project will remove the segment of the parkway from Main Street to Findlay Drive. Whirlpool and Third streets will be reconstructed to accommodate traffic from the parkway as part of phase one, which will be completed in the summer of 2020. A contract for the second part of the project that includes the removal of the 1,700-foot-long viaduct/overpass, which carries the parkway over the Whirlpool Bridge and its Customs and Border Patrol plaza, is scheduled to be awarded this winter. Work on this contract, which also includes the removal of an abandoned railroad trestle and pedestrian bridge, is scheduled to be completed by the fall of 2019.
The third and final part of the project includes removal of the parkway's remaining pavement and restoration of its footprint with landscaping and vegetation; access improvements around the Niagara Gorge Discovery Center and the Aquarium of Niagara; enhanced lighting; and the construction of entrance walls, multi-use paths, picnic areas and scenic overlook areas. Work on the final part of the project is scheduled to be completed in the late fall of 2020.
Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Howard Zemsky said, "The launch of the Robert Moses Parkway removal project is the key to greater access for Niagara Falls residents and visitors to this world-class waterfront that will also boost future community and economic development in the region."
Rose Harvey, commissioner of the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, said, "Reconnecting hundreds of acres of green space along the Niagara Gorge to city residents and visitors is a tremendous opportunity for the region. Gov. Cuomo continues to lead an impressive revitalization of both the city and the state park at Niagara Falls."
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "Removal of the Robert Moses Parkway is a victory for the people of Niagara Falls. For nearly 60 years this parkway has been a barrier between Niagara Falls neighborhoods and arguably the most magnificent waterfront in the world. Tearing down the Robert Moses Parkway is an important step in righting a historic wrong, showcasing the region for all who visit and building up a community through greater access to their waterfront."
Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, "Today's announcement marks an exciting milestone in our journey to reconnect residents and visitors to the City of Niagara Falls with the Niagara River Gorge, allowing them to experience the beauty and wonder of Niagara at her very best. Such an opportunity would not be possible without the support of Gov. Cuomo, who continues to demonstrate his commitment to enhancing the visitor experience to our great city for generations to come."
NYPA built the parkway in stages between 1958-67 as part of the construction of the nearby Niagara Power Project. It was viewed then as necessary to both enhance tourism to compete with the Canadian side of the falls, and to also dramatically reduce commuting times in the area. In 2016, the parkway was renamed after Cuomo launched a competition asking New Yorkers to suggest a new name for the roadway. The winning entry was selected by a panel comprised of state representatives and members of the local community.
The entire Niagara Gorge project is being undertaken through an agreement between NYPA and several state and local agencies, including the State Parks, NYSDOT, Empire State Development, the USA Niagara Development Corp. and the City of Niagara Falls. NYSDOT is leading the construction effort and is coordinating with the project partners.
NYPA funded the planning and environmental review phase of the project, and is providing funding for construction and construction administration and inspection. At the NYPA board of trustees meeting on May 22, the board approved $36.5 million for the project. NYPA had previously authorized funding in the amount of $5.5 million for preliminary engineering work, environmental clearances and project design work that was undertaken in cooperation with the participating partners.