Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced “City of Lights: Re-View our Waterfront” proposed by SWBR, Fisher Associates and MRB Group from Rochester is the winner of the “Aim for the Sky” competition to re-imagine the Skyway Corridor. The winning idea proposes removing the Skyway and redistributing traffic over a series of new facilities. A piece of the Skyway high level bridge would be re-purposed as “Skyway Park,” which would provide iconic views and recreational amenities. Earlier today, nine finalist teams from across the United States pitched their ideas in front of a live audience and panel of judges as they competed for a $100,000 award. “Skyway River Loop” took home $50,000 for second place and “Queen City Harbor: Bringing Buffalo to the Water’s Edge” took home $25,000 for third place.
“The Buffalo waterfront has always been one of our state’s great assets, and by removing the existing Skyway we will lay the foundation for further transformation and growth in this community,” Governor Cuomo said. “This competition generated ideas and proposals from some of the nation’s greatest minds to redesign this obsolete corridor into a modern transportation network that reflects the exciting turnaround in Western New York and sends a message to the rest of the country that Buffalo is back.”
The Governor announced the project will utilize an expedited Environmental Impact Statement that will be completed in under two years. Project construction will be completed in under three years. This expedited process will allow the entire project to be completed in under five years – four years faster than the process for typical projects of this nature.
The concept for Skyway and Route 5 Corridor is to remove the barriers separating the city from its waterfront. Removal of the Skyway (Church Street to Prime Street) along with the access ramps makes 12 acres available for development in downtown and Canalside. A piece of the Skyway high level bridge would be re-purposed as “SkyPark,” which would provide iconic views and recreational amenities. Traffic would be redistributed over a series of new facilities including a new “Tifft Street Extension” road connecting to I-190; a new lift bridge at Michigan Avenue; and a new road connection between Ohio Street and Fuhrmann Boulevard south of the City Ship Canal; among other improvements.
In February, Governor Cuomo announced his plan for a national design competition to solicit the best ideas for a new vision for the current Skyway Corridor that would be completed in six months. The Skyway, a four-lane limited access expressway, extends four miles along the City’s Buffalo River and Lake Erie waterfront and carries roughly 40,000 trips per day of commuter traffic as part of the regional highway system.
Roadway improvements are proposed to support private development in Silo City, along Ohio Street, in Riverbend and the Elk Street BOA, with incremental infill development across the First Ward. Traffic is expected to be diverted to Ohio Street and a new Michigan Avenue bridge. A Tifft Street extension is a lot proposed to syphon traffic away from Route 5.
According to The Buffalo News, the state is kicking in $10 million toward an environmental study necessary for the project that carries a $340 million price tag. That covers $61.2 million for demolition and a $179.4 million in improvements. The improvements include the Skyway park ($60 million), new bridges ($48 million), new roads ($42 million) and open space and habit restoration ($10 million).