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Tear Down These Ramps! (REPOST)

This story first appeared in february of 2011.  With yesterday’s press conference announcing the rebuilding of Niagara Street as a “complete Street”,  I thought it was worth a repeat shout out to get rid of the ridiculously long highway on-ramps that jut off the Niagara Street to connect to the Throughway.  These ramps are an obnoxious assault on the street and their scale is completely out of proportion to their usefulness.  They are a left over nuisance from a time when city leaders were intent on wrecking every city neighborhood with highways.  Let’s get rid of this left over 20th century folly.  In the heading above, I have added a map to the story with a quick sketch of how you might be able to re weave the city streets in this area.    With more thought I am sure a quite wonderful new use could be developed and put here, which would actually benefit the city.  These ugly ramps are not a benefit to the city; so why not start planning now to get rid of them? Give your elected officials a call. Ask them when these ramps will be removed. 

Earlier this week, Buffalo Rising featured the proposed renovation of a wonderful historic building on Niagara Street just north of City Hall (see post).  This is a down at its heels section of Niagara which I thought would not get much if any notice from preservationists and developers for a long time if ever.  It was an extremely pleasant surprise to hear of this project.  The area has tremendous potential but is heavily burdened by poverty, disinvestment, and planned sprawlification locked in by policies set in motion 50 years ago.

The neighborhoods east of the street remain tattered but remarkably intact. Almost all of the historic neighborhoods on the west side of Niagara were removed for new suburban style sprawl developments.  Unlike the suburbs these developments were built to house the poor. Also on the east side of Niagara is the set of giant Thruway on/off ramps which gouge a huge hole in what is left of the street scape, forming a gaping divide between neighborhoods to the north and south.  The giant ramps with associated “green space” were installed in anticipation of a expressway connector which would have rammed a highway through the historic neighborhood at the south edge of Allentown. Little things like historic neighborhoods did not matter to planners back in the 50s, 60s, 70s etc.  Thankfully some miracle the highway connector concept was dropped and Buffalo was spared another epic mistake.

Niageggeg.jpg

Unfortunately we were saddled with the dismembered stubs of this highway at three locations and no one has ever suggested getting rid of them.  I thought about how stupid these ramps are as I read about the proposed building renovation which sits across the street from their east end and how a reurbanization of this area possible.  Even if access to the Thruway has to be maintained here for the convenience of highway users, certainly it could not be too hard to rework them to make the access much less intrusive and destructive to the city.  A smart rework of the ramp configuration could drastically reduce the highway foot print and open up a huge amount of new taxable land to enable a major improvement of the Niagara Street urban environment.  The will to get rid of the highway all together will likely not emerge for many years.  While we wait, why not start chipping away at some of the more silly city killing components of the thing.  These ramps have to go!

Written by David Steele

David Steele

Architect ( a real one, not just the armchair type), author of "Buffalo, Architecture in the American Forgotten Land" ( www.blurb.com ), lover of great spaces, hater of sprawl and waste,
advocate for a better way of doing things.

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