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Letter to the Editor

As promised in a previous post, I wrote a letter to the editor of The Sun in response to their editorial on tearing down the Skyway. There it was today, filling up a huge section of the editorial page. Reprinted here:

Editor, The Sun:

The Skyway has certainly become a hot topic since waterfront development has gained some momentum. However, what has been lacking has been actual facts surrounding it’s usage, it’s safety, and it’s role in being a barrier to outer harbor development.

According to DOT traffic data, 41,500 cars travel the two lanes of the inbound Skyway daily. That’s approximately the same number of cars that travel the 6-8 lanes of Genesee Street in front of the Airport each day. About 70% of the inbound Skyway traffic exits onto either the north or south I-190, and the remaining 30% continues onto Delaware through the city. Downgrading the Skyway to a parkway and eliminating the junction to the 190 will cause severe traffic backups as motorists attempt to weave through the city to reconnect to the 190 or their destination. Anyone that travelled the Skyway while the 190 ramps were closed for construction recently can confirm the impact of having even one ramp closed.

While it’s difficult to obtain actual safety statistics on the Skyway, the DOT has said in the past that the Skyway is no more dangerous than other comperable roadways. From personal experience I can say that there are far more accidents on the Thruway, the 190, and the 290 than I’ve ever seen on the Skyway.

Frequent closings of a major roadway are absolutely a nuisance, but it appears the perception outweighs the actual data when it comes to the Skyway. Again, from my own experience of using the Skyway daily this winter, it was in fact only closed once, in the outbound direction only, and only for a brief time to clear an accident. Not even on February 17th when over 100 area schools were closed for high winds was the Skyway closed. In previous winters where the weather has been worse it was certainly closed more often, but these closing generally coincide with a general driving ban in the city.

Maintenance costs are also frequently quoted as a reason to demolish the Skyway, but we haven’t seen much data telling the costs of replacing it. Demolition costs, new construction costs, and the cost of building, maintaining, and staffing 2-3 mechanical lift bridges all need to be considered. The DOT has already stated that the full Southtowns Connector Tifft St. to 190 Arterial roadway may be too expensive to build.

Finally, lack of development of Buffalo’s outer harbor is due to a single reason – the NFTA’s ownership of the land for the last fifty years. No amount of reconfiguring roadways can ever trump the fact that the land has been unavailable for development. With all the proposed new construction along the waterfront traffic is sure to increase in that corridor. So before we demand the demolition of a functional and useful roadway and bridge, let’s continue to expose all the facts.

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