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JUNE 2 - JUNE 10, 2015

Opportunity Lost - South Moses Parkway Upgrade A Quality of Life, Economic blow to City

By James Hufnagel

JUNE 2, 2015

For years planners and politicians extolled the new "Riverway" project that was to replace the south Moses Parkway. Instead, signs from the Grand Island bridge all the way to the city line identify the recently upgraded highway not as Riverway, but the same old Robert Moses Parkway. Not a single sign identifies the new route as "Riverway".
Several signs on the 190 and the Grand Island bridge make clear that the Moses is here to stay.
Enormous new sign on the Grand Island bridge. An inside joke going around State Parks and the DOT is that another sign is soon to be erected: "Welcome to Niagara Falls - the Sucker City".

The south Robert Moses Parkway opened last week for traffic in both east and west directions. All that remains to be done is some final landscaping.

As one local columnist wrote, "Every day on my way to work, I drive onto the Robert Moses Parkway beneath the Grand Island Bridge so I can enjoy the scenic route past the most beautiful river in the world."

If it's the "most beautiful river in the world", did it make sense to build a highway along its entire length so that commuters could enjoy 60 seconds of viewscape out their vehicle window on their way to work?

Is that really the best possible use of this "scenic" waterfront, an asset and a jewel the like of which few cities are privileged to have?

That the Parkway saves a few seconds for individuals who work in Buffalo has been a recurring point on social media the past week.

People have stressed the convenience of the high-speed, dedicated highway over Buffalo Avenue, even though Buffalo Avenue served the region just fine during the 1950's when it was the sole connection to the thriving city of Buffalo, and the population of Niagara Falls was over 100,000, more than twice what it is now.

One woman made a snide comment with respect to how well the south Moses Parkway fulfills her sense of entitlement, given that she drives on it to work "unlike most of the unemployed in the city of Niagara Falls".

With all due respect to the daily commuters who so cherish their shortcut to Grand Island, if the space along the river was a world-class park and green space such that it drew business and investment to the city thanks to improved quality of life and increased property values, maybe there would materialize gainful employment for them right here in Niagara Falls and they wouldn't have to make that rat race commute to Buffalo every day.

One writer said, "Construction crews have been busy for weeks ripping out the Robert Moses as part of a master plan to give people access to the water. I can’t wait until it’s gone. I hate the dang thing."

In reality, she is advancing a premise that is simply wrong. The south Robert Moses Parkway has not been "ripped out". Really. Any rational person who has driven there over the past two weeks can attest to that fact. Go see for yourself.

It's still there.

But that's exactly how it's been framed since the early planning stages for the Parkway project commenced years ago - politicians and local media alike talking out of both sides of their mouth, depending on their target audience.

Waterfront advocates feeling a warm glow upon hearing the word "removed" while commuters breathe a sigh of relief the first time they navigate the new road, happy that their precious pavement is still very much intact, despite non-stop pronouncements to the contrary from State Parks, the state DOT, and Mayor Paul Dyster.

Witness the May 21 Gazette headline that read, "Southern stretch of Robert Moses Parkway back in full service on Friday".

The same day, the Buffalo News reported, "The Robert Moses Parkway opened Thursday, one day ahead of schedule... The opening means the traffic detour onto Buffalo Avenue in place since November has been discontinued."

"We're back in business on the Robert Moses Parkway south. It's now open to traffic in both directions — (and) on the newly reconfigured Robert Moses traffic circle" echoed the Downtown Niagara Falls Business Association.

The reality of the situation is that the south Robert Moses Parkway will be with us for the next fifty years, sprawling across and cutting off access to waterfront, and through signage, encouraging tourists to bypass the city's business district and drive directly into the state park.

This reconfiguring of the Robert Moses cost $18.8 million. The population of Niagara Falls is 49468. That's approximately $380 for every man, woman and child living here.

Could that money have been better used for real improvements to infrastructure, lower taxes, micro loans for small businesses or funding charities, festivals and cultural institutions?

It could have been removed altogether for a fraction of the cost.

Something to contemplate as we drive around in a circle.





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