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A new expressway to solve an old city-killing expressway? Leave it to NYS DOT.

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The New York State DOT’s proposed solution to closing its Route 5 Skyway is to build or expand over five miles of limited-access highway (in red, above) away from where people want to go. At staggering expense, it fails to address Buffalo’s problematic highway history, and reduces citizen access to the waterfront.

Hey, Highwayman! Put down your mouse. Back away from the screen.

Stop trying to rationalize building an entirely new limited-access highway that goes 2.6 miles in the wrong direction and dumps traffic onto a crowded Thruway, threatening new congestion for 2.3 miles that you propose to build yourself out of by expanding on/off lanes for the entire length, and building three spirit-killing, street-life-sucking, pedestrian-alienating, conflict-inducing interchanges with city streets. And generally coarsening neighborhood life to fulfill your through-traffic bias.

At a cost of almost $550,000,000, plus generations of maintenance and life-cycle costs that would exceed the original construction cost.

You’re not helping. Get a grip on how the rest of us live, and want to live.

Slow down, for one.

Look at the two-mile stretch of Route 5 in Woodlawn and Lackawanna. Three lanes in each direction max, a 40mph posted speed, intersecting streets, and stop lights here and there. Almost 38,000 vehicles use it per day, more than the Skyway itself. Ohio Street (until 2009 striped as four lanes) and a new two-lane, one-mile Ganson Street extension across the City Ship Canal connecting to Michigan Avenue would give you six traffic-calmed lanes, minimum, into the city.

That is better than reducing waterfront access to just one lane in each direction (the current configuration of Ohio Street). Further, diverting four lanes on an epic 5-mile detour through railyards, junkyards, and tank farms will not prove attractive to people who can see downtown Buffalo directly ahead of them, and will opt to go straight ahead. (On Day One this will jam up Ohio Street thicker than jelly, and we’ll have to wait years for its common-sense return to four lanes and a Ganson Street extension anyway.)

Even without the 30%-50% traffic diversion to the Thruway (via the Milestrip Expressway) that you yourself predict in your Route 5 Project Scoping Report, more than enough reserve capacity exists on local streets to handle foreseen traffic. Elmwood and Hertel avenues, in their most popular stretches, handle much more vehicular and foot traffic than presently crosses the Buffalo River on any street.

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The distributive ability of the universal-access local street network to get people directly where they want to go is better, by definition, than a limited-access highway. The north-south streets of Ganson, Michigan, Ohio, Louisiana, and Abby, plus the east-west connectors of Exchange and South Park (both four-lane width), renewed as “complete streets,” could profitably accommodate the traffic.

Can you prove, Mr. Highwayman, that Buffalonians and their neighborhoods would be better off with another expressway? That the construction-, maintenance-, environmental-, and social costs would be worth the foregone benefits?

The benefits? They start with access for all, including walkers, bikers on an iconic Cloudwalk, with a Metrorail station at the bottom. Acres of downtown land restored to neighborhood and park use along the lines laid down by Joseph Ellicott in 1800 (A reclaimed Terrace Park). A downtown waterfront that is complex, rich, dynamic, and layered with history. An Outer Harbor a walk away that is a human and natural refuge, with walkway and ridge-top views over a Great Lake. Allow us to explain. See the Big Picture


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