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Turning Overpass Eyesores into Functional Design Opportunities

Some of the ugliest places in Buffalo exist under highway overpasses. If you think about it, there are plenty of highway overpasses, which means that there are a plenty of blighted areas of the city. Now, normally someone might look at these unpleasant areas, shake his or head, and simply walk away. The real problem is that these overpasses aren’t going away anytime soon. That means that someone has to come up with a way to brighten them up – to make them places that are actually interesting, instead of unappealing.

Believe it or not, there are some creative people in other cities that are turning these vapid, uninspiring locations into pleasant places to congregate. Some are being transitioned into destinations where visitors might hang around for a bit and interact with the space, while others are being designed to capture the imaginations of passersby as they head from one place to another.

It would be great to see the University at Buffalo tackle a couple of these projects. Maybe hand-in-hand with the Albright-Knox? We need to start fixing some of the aesthetic messes that we have at Canalside, in the heart of Downtown, along waterfront, and at other high profile locations where these overpasses contribute to blight. Let’s turn these eyesores into opportunities.

To learn more about cities that are rethinking the roles of their overpasses, take a look at this article.

Lead image: The Wabash Lights in Chicago 

Written by Buffalo Rising

Buffalo Rising

Sometimes the authors at Buffalo Rising work on collaborative efforts in order to cover various events and stories. These posts can not be attributed to one single author, as it is a combined effort. Often times a formation of a post gets started by one writer and passed along to one or more writers before completion. At times there are author attributions at the end of one of these posts. Other times, “Buffalo Rising” is simply offered up as the creator of the article. In either case, the writing is original to Buffalo Rising.

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  • NorthBuf
  • I think this is cool, but I disagree that overpasses are always ugly. The 190 on ramp area downtown adds to the urban feel of that area. It is a very “Chicago” feeling area and while I wouldn’t want the whole City to be covered in overpasses (like Chicago) a few here and there give a difference sense of space and interest. This anti-highway attitude has to stop. Transit infrastructure for CARS is a “real thing” and cars are an important part of our regional inter-connectivity. There won’t be a Light Rail Rapid Transit line out to East Aurora or 95% of the suburbs and rural areas any time soon (or ever). Cars are central to the commuter in WNY and jobs are central to the community. If we want to grow the City and Downtown, ease of access is key and highways are part of that equation along with roads, rails and other methods.

    • breckenridge

      Agreed. Elevated roadways are very functional – they keep traffic up and away from the surface, allowing pedestrian access and alternative use of the space. We’d be well served to make better use of the areas underneath the 190/Skyway and to make them more attractive.

    • Hugh Jarvis

      I agree that cars and highways are part of our landscape, but that doesn’t mean they will never go away.

      For many decades the US has had a pro-highway mentality that wreaked havoc on cities and and suburbs.

      Many people now feel it is perfectly appropriate to push back, and push back hard.

      Our car-focused lifestyle is damaging us physically, draining our economy, and damaging our environment.

  • Alex

    “Some of the ugliest places in Buffalo exist under highway overpasses. If you think about it, there are plenty of highway overpasses, which means that there are a plenty of blighted areas of the city. ”

    Only to suburbanites or people living in the hermetic bubble of Elmwood Village: people who don’t really want everything that comes along with an urban landscape.

  • Alex

    Just wondering if since BRO appears to has completely pivoted on their views of KNOCK DOWN THE SKY, if they’re bothered to reach out to Higgens to let him know they are behind saving the skyway so it can be used to enhance the area.

    As recently as July 25, 2016, BRO appeared to be propelling the “knock it down” school of thought.

    I’ve always stood firm on keeping the Skyway in lieu of flatting the city into a sub-urbanized shell of its former self. It is a fantastic example of mid-century design aesthetics.

    What is BRO doing to keep their new found direction of keeping the skyway in tact?

    • Bradley J. Bethel Jr.

      “a sub-urbanized shell of its former self”

      That term is ironic, since that’s what Buffalo became from the time the Skyway was built.

  • Charlie Abbott

    As much as I love this idea, I feel like these things become forgotten fast. Just look at the skyway for example. They used to have a section of that lit up before but now they don’t bother.

  • Tahooter

    The BNIA: I suggest the underside of the elevated roadway outside the arrival / baggage area would benefit from artful lighting. While providing a sheltered area for pickups during inclement weather, it is a dark and uninspired space. Between the blah of the terminal interiors and the exterior road/parking garage blocking the nice (though not iconic) terminal structure, visitors might think “art” won’t arrive in Buffalo until Uber and Lyft do.

  • The article itself is very old… since 2011. A lot of projects have been completed that were “proposed”, like the Toronto one.

    Regardless, however, we do have the eyesore known as the 190 that feels shady even if its parking or a street. Nothing grows, so there’s no way to pretty it up except some colored lights or art, but knowing Buffalo, it’d wind up getting ruined by low lifes if it’s not monitored 24/7.

  • Adam Wolkoff