Skyway view from Canalside on May 9, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

Are the Skyway's days numbered? Competition to come up with alternative announced.

"The Skyway really was built at a different time for a different city"

February 28, 2019 - 4:22 pm

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Saying, "the Skyway really was built at a different time for a different city," Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday called for a national search for an alternative to the Skyway.

The Skyway, which connects downtown Buffalo to South Buffalo and the southtowns, has long been criticized for its nuisance after areas like Canalside and the Outer Harbor began its redevelopment. During weather events such as the January blizzard and this week's most recent high winds, the Skyway closed to traffic.

"Let's stop thinking about studies and pondering and 'what if', the future is what you make it," said Cuomo in Cheektowaga for a stop billed to discuss tax issues.

Hear more audio from Cuomo below:

"Senator (Tim) Kennedy is going to include in this year's budget that's going to be done in about a month a design competition," Cuomo said Thursday. "Let's have a national competition for designers. Give us the best idea for an alternative to the Skyway. The state will offer a $100,000 prize for the best design. Let's get the best design firms, best architects, best urban planners, to come in and say today, for the new Buffalo, for a connected Buffalo, a Buffalo accessing the water and the attraction, this is what we should do as an alternative for the Skyway."

Kennedy, who also serves as chair of the state transportation committee, says it's time for progress.

"We've been talking about it for decades that the Skyway is structurally deficient, it's obselete, and it's fracture critical. It's time for us tome come up with a new vision," said Kennedy. "We do it by creating an environment where we get the best designers in our community, across our great state, and across the entire nation to come in and share their vision and to see what that vision could possibly be for our community."

Hear more audio from Kennedy below:

The state will solicit ideas from design firms, community planners, urban planners, architects and others. The competition will take six months, and an expert panel will review the proposals and choose a winning design. Factors that judges will consider include the cost of the proposal and the timing of its implementation. In addition to the local, state and national recognition, the winning proposal will receive a $100,000 prize for their design. There will be a series of public hearings for community input. 

The competition would be administered by the Empire State Development Office and Department of Transportation.

The Skyway recently underwent repairs on the inbound side last summer. Starting in March, the New York State Department of Transportation will begin construction on the outbound lanes. The cost of its repairs are around $30 million.

The Skyway was designed with a 110-foot clearance to accommodate industrial work on the Buffalo River, making the bridge larger and longer. Today, the Buffalo River is primarily used as a recreational waterway, and the elevated highway is no longer necessary. An alternative design of this highway would open up waterfront land that isn't currently accessible and further the revival of Western New York.

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