Almost a year ago, the New York State Department of Transportation confirmed they were conducting a “plausibility review” for the potential removal of the Buffalo Skyway. Today, Senator Tim Kennedy is urging the DOT to publicly release the findings of that review. Following the recent announcement of a new state park on Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, the Skyway remains one of the few remaining barriers hindering waterfront redevelopment.
At a public hearing in January, DOT Commissioner Joan McDonald informed Senator Kennedy that she was willing to come to Buffalo to discuss the results of their plausibility review. Since then, the DOT has not provided any information on the review, despite multiple requests from Senator Kennedy’s office for updates on their assessment.
“Last fall, the Department of Transportation confirmed they were reviewing the potential removal of the Buffalo Skyway. Since then, they have not yet provided any updates on their ‘plausibility review’ or released their findings,” Kennedy said. “The people of Buffalo and Western New York deserve to know what the DOT’s review found or what’s been holding it up. The ‘structurally deficient’ and ‘functionally obsolete’ Skyway is a physical barrier impeding continued economic progress, and razing it will open up new opportunities for development along our city’s shorelines and spur private investment and job creation. This transformative project will move Buffalo even closer to becoming a world-class waterfront city.”
Kennedy wrote to the DOT Friday to request the public release of the review findings. Kennedy’s letter highlights the remarkable progress and ongoing development on Buffalo’s waterfront, and points to Skyway removal as an opportunity to open up new lands and reconnect the city to its waterfront.
In his letter, Kennedy writes, “Like many Western New Yorkers, I was encouraged to hear that the Department was reviewing the plausibility of Skyway removal, and we have been waiting patiently for close to a year for the release of your findings. I urge you to come to Buffalo and provide us with an update on this review and its resulting recommendations. If the review is not yet complete, then I believe our community deserves a timeline for when we can expect to learn the findings of your assessment. Tearing down the Skyway will help lift up the economic prospects of the Buffalo waterfront higher than ever.”
The DOT has previously given the Skyway a condition rating of 4.85, meaning that it is “structurally deficient.” A 2012 DOT report on state bridge conditions notes that the Federal Highway Administration rates the bridge as “functionally obsolete,” and the U.S. Department of Transportation has labeled the structure “fracture critical” – which raises serious questions about the long-term safety of the Skyway.
Kennedy says tearing down the Skyway will not only open up new waterfront lands for private development, but it will also save taxpayer money. A 2008 DOT report shows that current maintenance of the structure will cost the state approximately $117 million over the next 20 years, while removal costs have been estimated at $20 to $25 million.