For years, urbanist Tim Tielman has been calling for the partial removal of The Skyway, instead of taking the entire thing down. Tielman is not alone in his thinkings, but he does have some ideas in mind that maybe others have not considered. Such as leaving up 80% of The Skyway and taking down the part that is really obstructing progress at Canalside and the surrounding downtown area. The section that would remain would no longer be accessible by cars and trucks, only cyclists and pedestrians.
Not only is Tielman talking about this, he is making a presentation, in hopes that more people get onboard with his idea. You might remember that it was in 2007 when Tielman first proposed something of this nature. “The circumstances are a lot different now,” he told me, during a telephone call. “The Governor, Higgins, and the DOT – in one way or another – are in agreement that The Skyway should be closed to vehicular traffic (the DOT for technical reasons).
“What is different is that the Governor has seen the success of lower Manhattan, when they took down the elevated highway, and Rochester is disassembling the Inner Loop, and lining it with apartments, which will reconnect downtown as a walkable part of the city, with new buildings and infrastructure. Syracuse has been debating for a year about the I-81, which goes right through downtown separating it with a spaghetti bowl of interchanges that once wiped out a black neighborhood.”
Tielman explained that every city has the equivalent of a Skyway or a Can of Worms, or a Robert Moses Parkway (which Niagara Falls recently removed). Buffalo has made plenty of these types of mistakes in the past, and now we have a chance to right these wrongs, by taking a step forward and partially removing The Skyway, getting rid of the interchanges and ramps, while reconnecting the Canal District and the historic Terrace.
“The beast is 3.3 miles long,” noted Tielman. “And not all of it is interfering. It could be a tremendous mind-boggling resource. Get rid of the pollution, and the noise pollution, and give people a better way to access the Outer Harbor – something that would become an attraction. Some commuters will complain that they have a few more minutes to drive, but this is for the greater good of the city. The ongoing maintenance of ‘The Cloudway’ would not be a hardship for the City because there will be no more 40 ton tractor trailers rumbling the structure. Then we can start fixing the neighborhoods that have been destroyed. This plan is not overly elaborate.
“They could take the money used for the entire demolition and have remaining funds for all sorts of sustainable infrastructure, while connecting people to the DL&W Terminal, which would make that project more viable.
“The other end would be connected to the Outer Harbor State Park and to South Buffalo. Look what we’re doing with The Riverline – this all starts to make so much sense when we look at the big picture.”
Tielman mentioned that there are plenty of ways to rework the ground level roadways, to lead people into downtown neighborhoods, thus driving (literally) business to existing restaurants and shops.
People are spending more time outdoors, and trying to get healthier, ever since the start of the pandemic. Cities are looking for new ways to engage residents, with healthy activities, including green transportation options such as cycling. This idea definitely checks a lot of boxes, and solves the dilemma about whether to take The Skyway down… by leaving part of it up!
Additional renderings, maps, and full story can be found at Campaign for Greater Buffalo