The Skyway Revisited

Submitted by Dr. Edward Steinfeld and Megan Basnak - Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, University at Buffalo:

Noted by state and federal agencies as “functionally obsolete” and “structurally deficient,” the Buffalo Skyway is often viewed as a major barrier between the City of Buffalo and its waterfront. A major effort has been launched by civic leaders to demolish the structure in order to regain valuable space for future development. The estimated cost for demolition will be well over $10 million dollars. Some believe that this money could better be used elsewhere and that the proponents for demolition are overlooking the possibilities for reuse of the structure. The Skyway is a unique structure with outstanding views of Buffalo and Lake Erie. It provides a direct connection between downtown and the Outer Harbor. As a highway, it may be a barrier to development, but what would happen if the structure were to be repurposed and utilized in such a way that it actually contributed to and facilitated development in Canalside, the Outer Harbor, and the Grain Elevator District? It could be one of the city’s best assets – drawing worldwide attention and global tourism.

The reuse of obsolete transportation infrastructure is not a new concept. Historically, the Ponte Vecchio was the most well known example. Built and rebuilt during the early to mid-eleventh century, it is now a pedestrian bridge that crosses the River Arno and is lined on both sides with shops and merchants. La Promenade Plantée, opened in 1993 in Paris, France, was an abandoned elevated railroad line that was repurposed into a greenway at the track level. Shops were also built within its structural arches. The Highline in New York City, constructed in 2006, is a popular one-and-a-half mile linear park 30 feet above the ground on a former elevated section of the New York Central Railroad known as the West Side Line that has invigorated the surrounding neighborhoods and spurred major new development efforts. While the Highline and la Promenade Plantée are examples of repurposed railroad infrastructure, there are several cities that have tackled the challenge of rethinking highway infrastructure. In 2006, the city of Houston, Texas transformed an underutilized portion of valuable property along the city’s famed Buffalo Bayou waterway located under an elevated highway into an award-winning 23 acre recreational area with walking and bicycle paths and designated spaces ideal for art and musical performances.

Similarly, the city of Seattle, Washington in 2007 reinvented space under one of its main highways, the I-5, as a recreation area including 2 acres of mountain bike park. In addition to providing recreational opportunities, the park also serves to reconnect two neighborhoods once divided by construction of the highway. Buffalo’s neighbor city to the north, Toronto, has its own solution for recapturing lost space under elevated highways. Known as Underpass Park, the recreation area provides opportunities for leisure with a playground, basketball courts, skate-park, and open areas that are used for farmers markets and other outdoor events. Although these examples are all very different, they demonstrate how the spaces created by transportation infrastructure can be reused to address the specific needs of cities in which they are located, and without demolition, overcome barriers created by ill conceived projects of the past. The Buffalo Skyway also presents such an opportunity.

To explore the possibilities, University at Buffalo architecture professor Dr. Edward Steinfeld had his students investigated ideas for reuse of the Skyway. Dr. Steinfeld tasked his students with the challenge of conceptualizing speculative design ideas that took advantage of the unique spatial conditions created by the structure including long spans, prominence in the landscape, and fantastic views. The project statement asked students to focus on the development of exciting experiences for all ages that would attract national and international tourists, generate repeat visits, and produce income streams to support the activities and maintenance of the structure. Student design proposals included concepts ranging from an extreme sports complex with a sky ropes course and rock climbing, to an amusement park with roller coasters that would carry visitors above and below the Skyway road surface. Overall, the projects demonstrate that the Skyway is an opportunity rather than a liability. The wide variety of proposals conceived by the students, a sample of which is shared below, serves to further confirm how well the structure of the Skyway lends itself to being used for a variety of purposes other than simply transportation infrastructure. For more information on the projects described below please visit this site.

Four Seasons Landscape by Irfat Alam – larger version at bottom of page

Four Seasons Landscape provides year-round recreational and leisure opportunities for visitors of all ages. Summer activities include flower gardens, water displays, and bird and butterfly viewing areas. A bicycle path throughout the landscape can be transformed during the winter months into an ice-skating path. The areas beneath the main level are transformed into areas for indoor activities including a library, exhibition space, movie theater, and restaurants.

Four Seasons Landscape by Irfat Alam

Four Seasons Landscape by Irfat Alam

In areas opposite the indoor programming, small wind turbines are placed that produce electricity to support the landscape’s ‘Wind Art’ feature. Wind Art, based on the use of energy-saving strip lighting, allows for the landscape to glow at different levels of brightness depending on the amount of current that is received from the small wind turbines. The Skyway’s Wind Art provides a year-round, ever-changing experience for visitors of all ages.  A dynamic, programmable lighting display would transform the skyway into a magical nighttime attraction.

The Active Skyline by Nicholas Karl - larger version at bottom of page

The Active Skyline takes advantage of the views offered by the existing Skyway and its surroundings to benefit the health and wellness of Buffalo residents and visitors throughout the year. The Skyline offers different zones of activity that vary throughout the year, including areas for retail and sports equipment rental, restaurants, and a sports complex, which are all tied together with a walking/jogging track.

The Active Skyline by Nicholas Karl

The Active Skyline by Nicholas Karl

The open areas between each programmed space are in-filled with parks and other recreational areas that can be used for activities such as sledding and pond hockey during the winter months. The track and various programmed activities alternate sides of the Skyway in order to allow for both elements to take advantage of the various views offered by the structure’s extreme height. The Active Skyline expands on the HARBORCENTER Academy of Hockey and provides a year round experience that allows visitors and Buffalo residents alike to appreciate the beauty that the city and waterfront have to offer.

Up-Above Land Amusement Park by Braedy Chapman – Click to enlarge

Up-Above Land Amusement Park uses its position on top of the Buffalo Skyway to provide a one-of-a-kind experience to visitors of all ages. The thrill of riding one’s favorite rides is intensified by being 80+feet above the ground with the water and city skyline as the backdrop.

Up-Above Land Amusement Park by Braedy Chapman

Up-Above Land Amusement Park by Braedy Chapman

Up-Above Land Amusement Park by Braedy Chapman

Up-Above Land Amusement Park by Braedy Chapman

Shops and various entertainment activities complement the thrilling rides to provide a year round, enjoyable experience for all visitors. Public car access is replaced with a trolley system to connect the park to downtown from one end and the Outer Harbor from the other. A lower level added below the roadbed of the Skyway provides sheltered areas for rides and shops. Up-Above Land repurposes the Skyway to take the traditional amusement park concept to greater, more exciting heights.

Erie Canal Harbor Pavilion by Xi Han - larger version at bottom of page

The Erie Canal Harbor Pavilion creates a connection between visitors, the history of the Erie Canal, and the city’s waterfront. The Pavilion provides indoor and outdoor space for individuals and families to enjoy different activities throughout the day across all seasons, including open-air concerts during the summer and indoor media viewing during the winter.

Erie Canal Harbor Pavilion by Xi Han

Erie Canal Harbor Pavilion by Xi Han

Visitors are also invited to appreciate the natural beauty of water through the small waterfalls and shallow pools that anchor the pavilion complex. With the small waterfall structures intentionally placed to mark the original location of the canal, traffic flow is still maintained on the above road surface. By reducing the number of lanes, the current roadbed could include biking and walking lanes. Traffic calming and aesthetic improvements would make the roadbed amenable for pedestrian use.

Skyplay by Wayne Fung – Click to enlarge

Buffalo Skyplay is multi-sport venue that offers five different activities to visitors including a high ropes course, trapeze school, rock climbing, and bridge climbing. Utilizing a universal harness system to ensure maximum user safety, each activity offers various levels of difficulty.

Skyplay by Wayne Fung

Skyplay by Wayne Fung

Skyplay by Wayne Fung

Skyplay by Wayne Fung

Skyplay utilizes the existing Buffalo Skyway as structure for its various activities that occur above and below the existing roadbed. Buffalo Skyplay seeks to offer visitors a unique sports experience with the waterfront and Buffalo skyline as its backdrop.

Island in the Sky by Alyssa Phelps Click to enlarge

Island in the Sky is a unique destination located on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor that provides a place for both adults and children to enjoy interaction and leisure centered on wildlife, water, and natural landscapes. Using the structure of the Skyway as framework, various activities that incorporate water fun with animals, such as Toucan Land with its low slides, dump bucket, and birds, are layered throughout the facility, with kayaking and boating on the lowest ground level.

Island in the Sky by Alyssa Phelps

Island in the Sky by Alyssa Phelps

A gondola line transports visitors to and from Island in the Sky from other activities and nearby hotels along the Skyway. Designed for year round use, Island in the Sky combines fun and learning to provide a distinctive experience for visitors of all ages.

Sky Park by Prashant Verma - Click to enlarge

The Sky Park is a venue that combines entertainment and learning through the mediums of water and sky. The inflated tensile structure houses a trampoline park along with indoor skydiving that attracts visitors of all ages from all over the region and the world beyond.

Sky Park by Prashant Verma

Sky Park by Prashant Verma

The highway structure, reduced to a single lane on each side, utilizes piezoelectric sensors to produce enough electricity from the traffic flow to supply all of Sky Park’s energy needs as well as those of many of the neighborhoods lining the Skyway. Combining entertainment with practicality and functionality, Sky Park provides a one-of-a-kind experience for both visitors and commuters.

Sci-Fi Skyway by Niranjan Prabhu - Click to enlarge

The Buffalo Sci-Fi Skyway serves as the largest pop culture event center in North America. It plays host to events related to the latest in comics, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, toys, and movies. Over the years, an event known as Comic-Con has become the focal point of the world of comic conventions.

Sci-Fi Skyway by Niranjan Prabhu

Sci-Fi Skyway by Niranjan Prabhu

Similarly, Sci-Fi Skyway brings fans together with comic creators, science fiction and fantasy authors, film and television directors, producers, writers and creators of all aspects of the popular arts. As the Sci-Fi Skyway continues to grow in popularity, additional phases will be completed that will add additional events to the Sci-Fi Skyway’s existing comic book store, event staging area, and virtual reality game dome.

 

The student proposals were designed to push the envelope and explore the possibilities. Some of the ideas may seem unrealistic, but that is probably what people told Walt Disney when he envisioned Disneyland as a permanent theme park! These ideas demonstrate how well the structure of the Skyway lends itself to being used for a variety of purposes other than simply transportation infrastructure. Some are relatively simple and do not require a mammoth investment to get off the ground. The more extravagant proposals are so unique they would be global attractions; thus they provide high value for their cost. They all demonstrate that the Skyway provides a framework for creating unique places that will draw people from all over the region and visitors from all over the world on a regular basis.

As Buffalo and the New York State Department of Transportation contemplate the future of the Skyway, they have the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to view it as a barrier to development or an opportunity – a glass half empty or a glass half full. Other cities are seeing the opportunities. The City of Chicago is currently converting two miles of the elevated Bloomingdale Line (former railway) to a public greenway that will soon be part of a larger system of parks and trails known as the ‘606’. Similarly, the city of Philadelphia is in the planning stages for converting its Reading Viaduct, located just north of the city’s Central City section, into an elevated linear park. Some cities have even held design competitions in order to brainstorm ideas for reusing/repurposing outdated transportation infrastructure. The Solar Park South International design competition sought proposals focusing on reuse of the soon-to-be decommissioned Salerno-Reggio Calabria highway located in Calabria, Italy. Waterfront Toronto and the City of Toronto commissioned a 2010 design ideas initiative for reuse of the section of the expressway known as Gardiner East.

Like all of these cities, Buffalo has the potential to support a repurposed Skyway. Use of the highway’s off-ramps during past Buffalo Winterfest festivals as sled riding hills demonstrated how easy and simple reuse can be. For the past few years, Quebec City’s Dufferin Highway underpass served as the site for a free Cirque du Soleil performance during the summer months and hosted the Big Air FIS World Cup during the winters. Similarly, for one day each summer, Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway and Don Valley Parkway are closed to motor vehicle traffic and opened to bicyclists for a charity event known as Becel Heart & Stroke Ride for Heart.

Taking a cue from Toronto, GoBike Buffalo is organizing a bicycle ride on the Skyway in June. The Department of Transportation has agreed to close automobile access to the road for the event. Watch GoBike Buffalo’s website for more information.More temporary activities like this could attract public interest and support, especially if they occur year round. Leadership and organization may be needed to convince officials and planners that the public is supportive. Much can be learned from how projects like this gained momentum in other cities. In most cases, supporters of reuse were proactive for their cause instead of reactive. They formed advocacy groups responsible for educating, promoting, fundraising, and eventually implementing the work for their cause. In some cases, it took many years. The High Line was constructed and managed by a private non-profit organization, much like the Martin House Complex, and received funding from many sources. Gaining public as well as government support proved to be key in all of the cases examined. The Buffalo Skyway has the potential to be one the city’s best assets, but it is up to the citizens of the city to decide if realizing its potential is worth the effort.

The Skyway Revisited Project was part of the Inclusive Design Research Group’s Spring 2013 Studio at the School of Architecture and Planning, University at Buffalo. This graduate design studio is offered by faculty at the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDeA Center). The IDeA Center is internationally known for advancing design that benefits all people. Dr. Steinfeld, a Distinguished SUNY Professor, is the founding Director of the Center. More information can be found at www.idea.ap.buffalo.edu.

Following are larger image versions of the lead projects in this post… click to enlarge:

Four Seasons Landscape by Irfat Alam

Four Seasons Landscape by Irfat Alam

The Active Skyline by Nicholas Karl

The Active Skyline by Nicholas Karl

Erie Canal Harbor Pavilion by Xi Han

Erie Canal Harbor Pavilion by Xi Han

 

 

About the author  ⁄ buffalorising

62 comments
Aninterestedparty
Aninterestedparty

Sadly the article relates to the skyway is just a representation of Ran Webber's Skywa to the Future. The entire story is copied. The idea not original. It a shame when journalism reaches a new low.

Wlbblw
Wlbblw

Interesting designs, but any of them that show any sort of structure hanging below the existing bridge beams over the Ship Canal & the Buffalo River will not be allowed to be built. The bridge height above the water is 100 feet to allow for the passage of shipping traffic below & also for high masted sailing ships to the marinas up stream. That is a Federally maintained navigation channel & you can not obstruct it in any way.

As far as the bridge being "functionally obsolete", that statement leaves me confused. There is still a major amount of shipping traffic under that bridge & a massive amount of vehicle traffic over it. I really don't understand how that term applies to the situation. As long as the South-towns still exist, & the river keeps on flowing, there will always be a need for that bridge.

buffalorr
buffalorr

"Steel plant showing signs of life in "Lackawanna" --That's the headline in this morning's Sunday Buffalo News. Brian Meyer's article goes on to say how redevelopment of the former Bethlehem site is "is on the verge of a rebirth and could one day be home to companies that offer thousands of good paying jobs in a variety of industrial sectors".

This sentiment is supported by the nationally renowned brownfields expert, Evans Paull, who managed Balitmore's brownfields initiative according to The News. One of the main attractions of the site is it's proximity to rail, water and highway transportation.

It's doubtful that when referring to "highway transportation" for workers, suppliers and heavy truck traffic that a parkway like roadway winding it's way through downtown Buffalo is what potential industries looking to locate here have in mind.

The reality is that the Bethlehem site which covers over 1,000 acres will never be suited to anything other than industry which makes The Skyway and newly reconstructed route 5 even more important to our area's future.

The boutiques, museums and restaurant's coming to Canal Side are wonderful but Buffalo needs to regain the types of industries that actually manufacture things again in order to have well paying jobs that can revive WNY's economy. The retail and service jobs are welcome but they are only a first step when it comes to regaining the economic health Buffalo and it's resident's once shared.

Seydlitz
Seydlitz

Blow it up or leave it alone, any reuse proposal still will result in a gigantic physical barrier in downtown, and someone would still have to pay up keep anyway.

ChadCorp
ChadCorp

Wow...thinking big for a change. This is something that can finally draw visitors from Niagara falls to Buffalo.....time to extend light rail to the falls

300miles
300miles

These are all creative ideas.   But I really think using the skyway surface, unprotected, by pedestrians and cyclists is extremely dangerous.   If it's not enclosed completely it would at least have to have a glass-type wall along the edge to block the wind.

I really hope the folks that are planning the June bike ride know what they're doing.

JSmith11
JSmith11

"Taking a cue from Toronto, GoBike Buffalo is organizing a bicycle ride on the Skyway in June. The Department of Transportation has agreed to close automobile access to the road for the event. Watch GoBike Buffalo’s website for more information."

I can't say how much this simultaneously excites and terrifies me. That will be a very long climb up and a very long descent! It's probably not nearly as steep as you might think, but very sustained.

They'll definitely need to make sure people keep far away from the edges. There's little more than a Jersey barrier to keep you from flipping over the side.

buffalorr
buffalorr

One question that never seems to be answered in the pro or con discussions on the Skyway is what would be put in it's place that could handle the volume of traffic and still allow for shipping to occur uninterrupted.

Another issue that seems to be ignored is the noise and air pollution that would occur at ground level if a surface level road were to put into place.

Diverting all of the car and especially truck traffic to Ohio St. is not a viable option IMO.

CharlesKibby
CharlesKibby

$ 10M to remove the skyway will only remove the parts around the 190 the rest is going to cost much more.  This is an artery to the Southtowns and developable industrial lands.  There has to be a plan in place to replace access to downtown and access to trucks and working coming from the North.  

With the Riverbend project, Riverworks and furniture plant at the Port of Buffalo this will change how people use this critical access road.  Granted street level access needs to be restored downtown (I'm a cyclist and hate going over Ohio and through the project to continue on my route).   I travel it everyday to work and cannot think how my commute along with that of the 22 thousand other cars that use this road will be.  

If you are only judging traffic volumes on the weaken and comparing to Transit Rd. then you are way off.  This is a critical artery and it needs to be respected and volumes handled appropriately. 

jim1234664
jim1234664

I don't care that much whether it comes down or not. If it does though It would be verrrrrry short sighted to not save some of the elevated sections on Kelly island or the outer harbor for a highline like park

tomcs
tomcs

Interesting ideas. But if the skyway is truly structurally deficient we would be better off tearing it down than having to maintain it. The maintenance and updating it needs have costs now and in the long term. Opening up this space to public use, and diverting the traffic flows onto Ohio Street will bring great economic benefits.

paulbuffalo
paulbuffalo

I remain in favor of skyway removal.  However, it was a pleasure to read these student suggestions and they have been the best ideas regarding reuse that I've seen.  I wish these students could be turned loose throughout Buffalo.

Northbuff
Northbuff

LOL, great imaginative reuse projects but the only realistic option is to remove it completely and utilize all the added acreage added to downtown or just leave the beast.

HV_Buffalo
HV_Buffalo

There are two precedents that come to mind when I see some of these.  The first was an abandoned railroad bridge down state in Poughkeepsie, which after a fire in the mid 1970's, was determined to be structurally deficient for train or auto traffic.  After years of talk about tearing it down or trying to find a reuse, a Non-profit stepped in an purchased the structure.  After spending years paying-off back taxes and dealing with legal issues from the previous owner, the State of New York and the Dyson Foundation donated significant amounts of money to stabilize the structure.  After it's conversion into a pedestrian bridge linking rail trail projects on either side of the Hudson river, the "Walkway over the Hudson," as it's now called, has served and not only as an effective way to traverse the 3/4 - 1 Mile river, but also a tourist attraction of sorts due to it's spectacular views of the Hudson Valley, Attracting 750,000 Visitors in it's first year.  You can find out more at http://www.walkway.org/

The other is the old Walnut Street bridge in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a city that reinvented itself and attracted significant reinvestment downtown through investment in it's waterfront (sound like a familiar goal?).  The Walnut Street bridge was once the only auto-link to North Chattanooga, a predominantly African American working class neighborhood separated from the rest of the City by the Tennessee River.  A New highway bridge was built a couple hundred yards from it sometime in the 70's, Making Walnut Avenue redundant.  After years of neglect, the bridge was said to be ready to collapse at any given moment.  The City of Chattanooga decided they'd explore the possibility of making the bridge open to pedestrian traffic if it was sufficiently stable... So they drove a huge truck over it.  The rest is history.  They City invested money to stabilize the structure, opened it in the early 90's, andhave seen investment around the bridge skyrocket. The most notable of which is arguably North Chattanooga, which after years of neglect was left in rough shape, at best.  15-20 years on, North Chattanooga is the Elmwood Avenue of Chattanooga, and property on that side of the river has been steadily climbing in value.  You can see some basic info on this project at this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walnut_Street_Bridge_%28Tennessee%29


Now, the Skyway WAS deemed structurally deficient... to handle the car traffic it was built to handle.  But, it could in fact be converted into valuable public space, a bike/pedestrian corridor, and provide Buffalo residents with some absolutely wonderful vistas of the lake.  With some direct connections to the Canal district, it could also finally provide a sensible way to access the outer harbor.  The ultimate fact that needs to be considered regarding the Skyway is it is, by far, THE SHORTEST and most direct route to the outer harbor, which is seeing significant public investment, while also allowing lake freighters the clearance they need to access some of our still-active grain elevators.  There is, arguably, no real alternative that provides the same kind of access and utility.  Consider what that 10 Million could do if it was invested into removing the access-ramps and converting this structure... Projects like Walkway, Walnut Ave, and of course the High Line have all provided significant social and economic benefit to the cities and regions they reside in.   



buffalorr
buffalorr

At long last! Recognition going towards the great asset WNY has which is The Skyway. There have been numerous highways described as being among the worlds best drives. The Skyway can definitely be listed among them.

Few other roads have the incomparable views seen from The Skyway as it traverses past downtown buildings, a river, silo's and Lake Erie. You'd have to hire a helicopter in most other cities to see anything similar to it. All this aside from the fact that this bridge allows traffic to flow freely through a highly developed area and at the same time affords ships and freighters to sail towards their inland destinations unimpeded by low rise road crossings and other barriers.

I've never understood the narrow view of those calling for it's demolition which would further de-urbanize Buffalo. The Skyway is a monument to Buffalo's past industrial might and a can be a symbol of it's current movement towards rebirth. Imaginative and creative idea's such as those shown in this post are exactly what Buffalo needs verses the "tear it down it's ugly " sentiments' that unfortunately are all to pervasive when it comes to utilizing the infrastructure already in place that will never be duplicated on a scale such as The Skyway.

arced
arced

@Aninterestedparty  

Anyone can see by comparing Webber's proposal that these projects are not copies of that work. As the article points out, Webber is surely not the first person to think about re-using transportation infrastructure. The text was entirely written by the authors, not by Buffalo Rising staff, and we didn't even know about Webber's proposal. Please don't try to rob the students of credit for their creative work and effort.

Ed Steinfeld

micahh64
micahh64

@Aninterestedparty

Earth to ChristieLou:  as stated in the beginning, this was a project by students at UB's Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access.

Hard as it may seem to believe, its possible for more than one person to have an idea about the same thing -- in this case, the reuse of the Skyway.  So, the "entire story" isn't "copied", nor were they expressing "non-original" ideas . . .

.

nyc lines
nyc lines

and we can have our cake and eat it too. Alternative routes to the 190 are available. it only takes 2 additional minutes of travel time on Louisiana Street to the 190, South Park to Smith (from Riverbend) takes just a few minutes to get to the 190, easer than taking route 5 in fact, Tift street can connect from route 5 and Union Ship Canal industrial development to 190, and Bethlaham is very near Milestrip, a conveinet connection to 90. Nevermind that any truck traffic going east and west will have an easier time going to Milestrip from any site along Route 5 if travelling east/west on 90. Canadian truck traffic is the issue and we shouldn't be saddled with the skyway for that purpose and who knows, maybe they will eliminate truck traffic on the peace bridge (wishful, i know)..and options are available to get to the 190 as described (with some roadway improvements of course).

I believe we need to be smart about how we invest in our city and a balenced approach where we consider quality of life and economic opportunity is the only way to go. The era of devoting our best asset, the waterfront, to industrial and transportation purposes only is long over as the city is not just for workers, it's also for living now. Maximizing the potential of the inner harbor as an economic center is as purposeful as efforts at the medical campus or industrial redevelopment in south buffalo.

Buffalo must be a multi-dimensional city to succeed and removing the skyway would unleash substantial economic opportuinty that should not be dismissed as just a bunch of wimpy "service jobs" but rather a new reason to live and play in the city...something the city very BADLY needs. Canalside is the spot where the city was born, and it should be where the life of the city is reborn.

No_Illusions
No_Illusions

@ChadCorp  

Or advertise the Niagara Falls - Exchange Street Amtrak line that already exists.

buffalorr
buffalorr

JSmith-It's too bad that one lane couldn't be used for bikes while the other would be dedicated to pedestrians. I would love to be able to walk over the Skyway. Can you imagine the thrill of looking out over the silos and harbor at the top without being enclosed in a vehicle?

nyc lines
nyc lines

@JSmith11  

so how is this road be such a critical link if the state can just shut it down for a bike ride?  I know its not rush hour but regardless..




nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

The State DOT is to initiate a study as to the skyway alternatives before making the $100 million + investment decision.  so at some point we will get a sense of what the state considers the reasonable alternatives. Hopefully they can speed up the process though...it's been too long.



buffalorr
buffalorr

The state report on the Skyway say's it is in good structural condition. Almost 10M was spent a few years ago to make repairs and improvements and it also stated that only minor repairs are now required to the sides of the piers. It would cost at least 40 million to tear down the entire length of the Skyway, the funds of which would be needed immediately to do so. This doesn't even take into account of what would be needed in terms of cost to replace the Skyway along with the maintenance another route would require. Spending 125 million over 75 years for maintaining it comes to less than 2 million annually.

The notion that the Skyway is in disrepair is bogus just as the misleading reports on the now to be redeveloped Trico building were.

sobuffbillsfan
sobuffbillsfan

@paulbuffalo  The problem is not lack of ideas it is funding.  Until laws put a premium on how land is taxed, and making virgin land more expensive to build on than previous developed land, money will continue to pour into the path of least resistance.  I don't even think developers know why they do it.  I've asked on here before and search the internet for white papers, or studies linking productivity to large office floor plates.  I can't find one because I don't think there is a connection, especially in the day of telecommuting and global workforce.  But we always hear, we need a build floor plan this building is obsolete.

What is obsolete is the current development industry in the US, there is no creativity, no vision, and seemingly no will to improve.  New steel one story warehouse type building in the Burbs, and sheets of glass in the city.

nyc lines
nyc lines

@HV_Buffalo  

but getting to the top of the skyway from Canalside and then back down to grade without having to walk a mile is a significant issue..and expense.  It's far from a practical pedestrian link without huge expense for resolving access.  

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

"further de-urbanize Buffalo" 

what!?  the road that suppresses urban land value and prevents dense urban development at canalside contributes to the urbanity of Buffalo?  That's a joke.




paulbuffalo
paulbuffalo

@buffalorr  

There have been numerous highways described as being among the worlds best drives. The Skyway can definitely be listed among them.

No.  No, it can't.  Sorry, but that's just laughable.

Bison716
Bison716

@arced @Aninterestedparty  

I have worked with Mr. Webber for the past few years, and know of the Skyway To The Future Project very well. I applaud the students at UB for their creative "outside of the box" thinking and amazing work they have all done. Kudos to Dr. Steinfield for putting this together for many to see. Sometimes great minds think alike!

jhm5130
jhm5130

@buffalorr I agree with you, buffalorr! It is a dream to walk or bike over the Skyway and take pictures on the Skyway as much we would like. Excited!

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--The state also shuts down the Verrazano Narrows Bridge for the NYC marathon. The Verrazano handles a much higher volume of traffic than the Skyway does. Why would shutting down this bridge in Buffalo be any different?

le80
le80

@nyc lines @buffalorr  The study is done, they just refuse to release the results.  I believe late last year Tim Kennedy was pressuring the NYS DOT but nothing ever came of it.  Seems suspicious IMO, perhaps they weren't too happy with their own conclusions?

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr

No actually its not bogus at all.  It does need substantial repair.  Just look at the spalling concrete and you can see it.  The report outlines different levels of investment - $125 million upfront rehab will keep it in good shape for 75 years.  Where do you see that 125 is over a 75 year period?   I understand it's an upfront investment.

paulbuffalo
paulbuffalo

@sobuffbillsfan

The problem is not lack of ideas it is funding.

I didn't say there is a lack of ideas.  There has been a lack of good ideas, though.

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--plenty of people walk over bridges in New York City every day. I used to be one of them.

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--"prevents dense urban development" Have you seen what's being constructed under and directly adjacent to the Skyway? Have you actually walked the area to see the footprint the Skyway has on the land? Where do you propose additional dense urban development take place? Perhaps covering over the Buffalo River or harbor? Or we can bulldoze the new parks just opened so that all this development go forward since Buffalo has such a lack of open space.

Many throw out the myth of the Skyway preventing development while at the same time the area around it is experiencing more construction than any other part of the city.

The medical campus is the only thing close to it.

buffalorr
buffalorr

paulbuffalo--"No, no it can't" Well, yes, yes it can! You're entitled to your opinion as I am to mine. It's too bad you can't appreciate The Skyway as being a great drive but you haven't even said why you think that. You just dismiss the idea that there's greatness in the views of Buffalo and the Niagara Frontier that can be seen from the Skyway with specifying the reasons why.

It puzzles me that you sound so defeatist of our area's assets. Seems as though you're still from the inferiority complex type of thinking that some longtime Buffalonians are chronically afflicted with.

It's a new time for Buffalo in case you haven't noticed. Try to get with the excitement, energy and creativity that's being brought to WNY by young fresh minds such as those proposing these ideas and while you're at it, take a drive over the Skyway with an open mind and fresh eyes. You'll actually surprise yourself.

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr

I think you miss the part where they have 3 recommendations for rehab of the bridge deck - cast in place or pre-cast.  Yes there has been alot spent on the skyway already, but the report indicates there is much more necessary spending to keep it in place for 50 or 75 years because of the bridge deck condition.   Which to me says that they need to stop the perpetual investment of millions of dollars for something that suppresses adjacent land values and limits the economic potential of Canalside and instead focus that investment on making a great waterfront neighborhood by removing the skyway and building the lift bridge.   

And if it took $10 million to repair spalling in 1990, that means we are on a 20 year spalling repair cycle, because it looks due again!

 

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--Thanks for digging further into the report. It's a bit confusing but what I'm seeing is that there have been 24 contracts completed in Skyway reconstruction since 1950 ( don't see how that year is accurate ) but going forward, it goes on to say that comes to a total of 60 million dollars for that period or 175 million in today's dollars.

The bridge was originally constructed at a cost of 129 million in todays dollars so having to spend another 175 million over the next twenty years doesn't seem right. I can however believe that spending 175 million over the course of 75 years seems accurate.

The Skyway opened in 1955 so it's now in it's 59th year of service.

The report goes on further to state that many of the improvements made within the last twenty years used state of the art materials that will allow for less maintenance and will extend the life of repairs to the structure. Further, it say's the spalling was repaired in 1990 at a cost of 10 million and the piers are checked biannually and are in good repair with only minor work needed.

Looking at the report it becomes clear that extensive maintenance and repair has been made to the bridge over the years which would make it all the more wasteful to now tear it down IMO.

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

go to page 47 of the document below.  It gives different options for rebuild of the deck.  It appears they are putting the numbers in as a 20 year rebuilding project?  Not sure how that works, I would assume it would be done all at once.  Unless they use 20 years because at some point within 20 years one of these options must move forward (i didn't read all the details).  But essentially i understand that it is one upfront investment in the skyway..just maybe not tomorrow but within 20 years.

https://www.dot.ny.gov/regional-offices/region5/repository/FinalReportAnd%20Appendicies10-20-08Report.pdf

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--I accessed the New York State report through one of the links in the article. I re-read the line that stated it would take an investment of 125 million to maintain the bridge over the next 75 years twice to make sure I was doing my math correctly. ( At least I hope I read it correctly--I apologize if I didn't ) Spending 175 million to make repairs to the Skyway immediately would almost be equal to a total rebuild which I agree would then be money wasted.

Having said that, please let me know if you see the study and I'm wrong. I'll also try to find it again.

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

well you need an elevator to the bridge from Canalside...or long set of stairs!  By itself it's not a practical pedestrian bridge.  Also need a fully enclosed pedestrain space.  

Regardless these are all cool ideas and if it was turned into a pedestrian only structure, that could be awesome... but apart from removing traffic and doing something completely wild with it...it should really come down. 

  

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--I also used to think that the Skyway took up a lot of land downtown until I started walking directly underneath or around it wherever it's possible. I was surprised to see that it's not the Skyway that's using up a lot of the land. It's the 190 going both north and south as you can see if you stand on the Seneca One Tower property.

There is an on ramp to the Skyway at Church St. and an exit at Delaware Ave. The other exits take you onto the 190 south or north and removing these would do little as far as creating available land since you still have the 190 cutting through the area.

Most of the Skyway is elevated over portions of land that can't be built on even it wasn't there.

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

the empty historic blocks (West of Main Street) are cut by the skyway creating awkwardly shaped development parcels not conducive to dense development.  Additionally the noise from the skyway makes residential development below not likely - and if you building anything above a few stories you look out the window into the skyway structure itself.  $100 million in publically funded open space and the skyway creates severe restrictions on the ability to capitalize on it with corresponding private investment. 


And HarborCenter is not market driven and ECHDC gave Benderson a building for nearly nothing...and a tenent..and the donovan is not immediately adjacent to the skyway anyways.  Unless we want to keep funnelling public dollars down there we need to open up the land to the right kind of development which necessitates skwyway removal - so instead of spending $125 million to rehab the skyway for the next 75 years, we need to refocus that investment on a replacement lift bridge which at the same time allows substantial private investment in Canalside and the adjacent land downtown..  Removing the skyway would be a substantial economic benefit to the city.      

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

The state needs to do its due diligence and determine what other routes can handle the traffic... and traffic patterns change and adjust when roadways are modified.  It's not some hopeless situation where we need to replicate a limited access roadway...the skyway/ route 5 is only limitied access itself for a short distance before it becomes a surface street regardless.     

buffalorr
buffalorr

nyc lines--I agree that other access routes need to be created into downtown from the south towns but none of them could come close to the ability of the Skyway in handling traffic volumes. The Skyway was closed due to whether a total of 3 times during the past 4 years due to weather conditions and 12 times for accidents according to the state report. That's a pretty good track record IMO.

nyc lines
nyc lines

@buffalorr  

That's a great point - traffic back ups occur because we are so hell bent on channeling all traffic onto one road.  Taking down the skyway and replacing with a surface street and lift bridge while improving other access routes into downtown and to the 190 will make much more sense in the long term.  Having the skyway as the only reasonable access road creates problems when it closes for accidents/ weather. 

  

buffalorr
buffalorr

CharlesKibby---You make a great point about all those driving in from the south towns. Removing the Skyway is the equivalent of removing the I-190 for those coming in from the north or eastern suburbs. I doubt the folks living in Amherst or the Tonawanda's would appreciate that and neither would those living in Buffalo who reverse commute to work in the suburbs. Advocating for a parkway like road that would need lift bridges with a speed limit of 30mph is unrealistic considering the volume of traffic that goes over the Skyway on a daily basis.

I'm one of the lucky people who've been able to take advantage of early retirement which allows me to drive out to the beaches south of Buffalo from the northern part of the city almost daily during the summertime.

I'm always amazed at the amount of traffic that becomes backed up soon after leaving the Skyway heading south in the afternoon as I head back home. It would be horrendous if the Skyway wasn't there to funnel all this traffic over the city and Buffalo River. The few routes heading south would be backed up for miles IMO.

CharlesKibby
CharlesKibby

@buffalorr  I agree,  People (like @paulbuffalo) who do not commute or use the skyway daily do not know what's there.  

People need to think what to do with the traffic from Hamburg, Lakawanna and the southtowns that staff office and work in the downtown core.   

buffalorr
buffalorr

paulbuffalo--I take my time when driving over the Skyway by going no faster than 40mph in the right lane. Cars speeding past me at 60mph which is above the speed limit or riding on my bumper don't deter me from taking my time to enjoy the views while driving at the legal limit. It's really not the length of the drive, it's the quality of what you see and IMO this part of Buffalo's landscape is packed with interesting sites both man made and natural.

I lived in CA for 24 years and took the Pacific Coast Highway many times from LA to San Francisco and north. It's a beautiful stunning drive but much of it is the same mile after mile.

The drive here in Buffalo is fascinating because of the diversity of sites you see in a relatively short period of time.

paulbuffalo
paulbuffalo

@buffalorr  

Boiling a pot of tea would take me longer than the drive across the skyway so I wouldn't classify the experience as a drive.

Great drives include the ability to pull over and enjoy the scenery.  That ain't happening on the skyway and the high walls prevent a lot of the views anyway.  Meanwhile, what about the experience for those walking underneath this hulking expanse?

As for your Buffalo boosterism, good for you.  That's great.  I applaud all the good things happening in the city, too.  I'm just not as nostalgic as you are.


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