The Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation is moving forward with a streetscape improvement project along Ohio Street. Work is designed to complement recent upgrades in the neighborhood such as Buffalo River Fest Park, Silo City and the nearby Mutual Riverfront Park. It is also expected to spur private development along Ohio Street while providing an attractive connection between downtown and the outer harbor. The Ohio Street improvements are not meant to be a substitute to constructing a new bridge across the Buffalo River closer to downtown.
The Ohio Street and Inner Harbor Infrastructure Improvements Project includes a 1.5-mile roadway corridor, extending from a southern terminus at Route 5/Skyway to a northern terminus at Michigan Avenue. Reconstruction of Ohio Street as a "landscaped riverfront arterial" was recommended in the May 2006 Southtowns Connector/Buffalo Outer Harbor Project report.
A full-depth reconstruction of Ohio Street is planned, providing for a new two-lane roadway, with center-turn lane at several higher-volume intersections. Bike lanes and sidewalks will be added as well as new street lighting, trees, crosswalks, and signage (highway signs, Industrial Heritage Signage, and Greenway trail signage).
Plans also call for a pedestrian bridge from Childs Street near Silo City over Ohio Street, rail lines, and the ship canal to a passageway under Route 5 that provides a connection to Fuhrmann Boulevard and the outer harbor.
Storm drainage will be completely replaced, and where possible innovative stormwater treatments shall be used to reduce the below-grade infrastructure. Several landscaped "nodes" are also included, including at the former Ohio Basin inlet and at Louisiana Street.
The concepts shown here have been prepared by Wendel. ECHDC began working with several business owners in the First Ward community and Cobblestone District to review the May 2006 preliminary plans and make recommendations for the Ohio Street makeover.
Proposals from professional civil engineering, landscape architecture, and/or architectural consultant firms and/or teams to provide final design services for the project are due September 24 with ECHDC Board approval expected in November with design work completed by fall 2013.
As for the outer harbor bridge, it is not dead. According to officials, the holdup has been the slow start on planning for the Buffalo Harbor Brownfield Opportunity Area (BOA), and its potential impact on the outer harbor development scenarios. The Bridge project used assumptions that may now be changing with the results of the BOA effort. A Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the project is expected to be out for public review by the middle of next year. Crossings at Main Street and Erie Street are currently being analyzed.
"Public infrastructure investments at Canalside and the Outer Harbor are making way for exciting economic development opportunities for Buffalo and Western New York," said Congressman Brian Higgins. "Ohio Street provides another means to rebuild connections and with it rebuild enthusiasm, interest and access to our emerging waterfront and surrounding businesses."
Approximately $11 million in funding is already in place for the Ohio Street project, including $8.8 million in federal dollars. Congressman Higgins warns that $2.5 million in federal appropriations are at risk of rescission if unspent in a timely matter. Furthermore, under an agreement with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) $5.1 million in federal dollars are scheduled to lapse by October 31, 2013.
In addition to pushing the project at the local level, Congressman Higgins wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood requesting as the project be expedited as it moves through the review process by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.