BUFFALO, NY (WIVB) The top 16 designs for the Skyway design competition are out and now Empire State Development officials are asking for public input.
The “Aim for the Sky: The Buffalo Skyway Corridor Competition” contest started earlier this year in the hopes of finding the best way to decide the fate of the four mile structure built in 1955. The winning design in the competition will be awarded $100,000, the second place winner will get $50,000 and the third place winner will get $25,000.
On Wednesday, urban planners unveiled the 16 ideas that they chose out of more than a hundred submissions. The finalists will be on display at the Buffalo and Erie County Central Library until September 13th for public input.
In late September, a panel of urban planners will choose half of them to make a public presentation. Sometime this fall, the final three will be chosen and a final plan will take shape, according to Howard Zemsky, chairman of the board for Empire State Development. “This won’t be deliberated to death.”
Whatever the final plan is for the Skyway, a combination of funding sources will come into play, according to Congressman Brian Higgins. “I think by the fact that the Governor’s so committed to this project. I am a member of the House Ways and means Committee. Hopefully, we will be doing a major transportation bill. The president and Congressional leaders have talked about a two-trillion dollar bill. My job is to bring a good chunk of that home.”
Here’s a look at the designs:
The project calls for a gradual development of the area through three stages that address the Inner Harbor, Outer Harbor North, and Outer Harbor South.
“This phased approach is believed to allow for a realistic means to finance improvements and be adaptable to redevelopment opportunities,” the description states.
Skyway River Loop
This plan calls for removing the Skyway’s connections to I-190, adding a new bridge connecting to the Outer Harbor at Michigan Avenue, and allowing the Skyway to operate as a local bridge, adding new links across the water at S. Michigan Avenue and Ohio Street, transecting Kelly Island.
The plan nods to Frederick Law Olmsted’s parks’ traffic arterials and how they weave through the park without park users needing to cross them. It calls for keeping Skyway traffic high above the city’s shipping lanes and waterfront parks while creating new connections underneath it to allow vehicles and pedestrians to better access the spaces underneath.
City of Lights
The plan calls for removing ramps on either side of the existing Skyway bridge and allowing the bridge deck to become “Skyway Park”, offering panoramic views for pedestrians and cyclists.
Vehicles that currently use the Skyway would be given alternatives including a reestablished South Michigan Avenue bridge, a new road near Terminals A and B that would intersect with Ohio Street, and the Tifft Street Extension crossing the Buffalo River to Elk Street.
Queen City Harbor
The plan calls for removing the Skyway for mixed-use, primarily residential development in and around the waterfront.
It calls for maintaining existing auto traffic capacity on Route 5 through a redesigned boulevard, adding a bus rapid transit line along Route 5 and Ohio Street, introducing two ferry lines for water-based commuting and adding a new cycle track along the new boulevard for access to the city’s water front parks.
Rust Belt Resurgence
The plan calls for reducing dependency on vehicles by implementing a light rail system providing public transport from the Outer Harbor to the Inner Harbor and UB as well as an autonomous public bus system on Fuhrmann Boulevard providing access into the city.
A later phase of the project involves creating an “iconic aerial tramway” to link the Inner and Outer Harbor using the existing piers of the Skyway after the removal of the Skyway deck.
The plan calls terminating the Skyway at a redesigned Outer Harbor Drive interchange in order to create a public, car-free space for activity.
Peak-hour commuters would be encouraged to take either Ganson Street or Ohio Street/Louisiana Street, which would be repurposed to allow for a more effective traffic flow, or divert to I-190/I-90 via Mile Strip Expressway or Ridge Road.
Highways to Parkways
The plan calls for removing the Skyway, adding a new double-lift bicycle bridge over the Buffalo River and City Ship Canal, replacing the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, and replacing a portion of I-190 with an Olmsted parkway.
The plan calls for replacing the Buffalo Skyway from Ridge Road to I-190 with the Olmsted Parkway, connected on the Outer Harbor and Canalside/downtown sides by a new Buffalo River Bridge, which crosses the river at a lower elevation.
The plan also calls for redesigning and redeveloping over 180 acres of existing public lands along Lake Erie in an Olmsted-inspired park and creating new real estate in areas previously occupied by the Skyway or made less desirable by its presence.
The Sapphire Necklace
Calls for removing the Skyway and Route 5 entirely from I-190 through the Outer Harbor and south to Tifft, replacing it with a “grand boulevard” along Ohio Street.
The area would be transitioned into premier living, entertainment and recreation, connected by roads, bikeways, walks, boats, and water taxis.
Recreation Experience Circulation
The plan calls for repurposing the Skyway as an attraction with landscaped walkways, festival structures, suspended offices, and galleries.
It calls for removing the Skyway from its terminus south of Ridge Road to I-190 and adding tram lines.
Making Sense of the Outer Harbor
The plan calls for removing the bridge and elevated elements of the Skyway and constructing a new lift bridge from I-190 over the Buffalo River at Erie Street and connecting to a “Hamburg Turnpike” limited access expressway.
Vision for Skyway Corridor
This plan involves diverting traffic currently utilizing the Skyway corridor to a new highway. Fuhrmann Boulevard will be reduced to one lane traffic in each direction within the corridor. The Skyway bridge structure would remain and be adapted for new purposes, with passenger/bike elevators.
The plan calls for phasing the Skyway out over time by first reducing its lane capacity to provide pedestrian/bike access and eventually removing vehicular access by adding a Michigan Avenue lift bridge and other connections.
It would also create a sustainable transport system, applying intelligent transport systems strategies to existing routes.
The plan calls to turn the Skyway into an integrated urban boulevard with several transportation modes, including multi-use paths. The plan also calls for a new bridge between downtown and the Outer Harbor.
This plan looks to create a year-round venue, transforming the Skyway into a glass-enclosed structure (lineardome), full of tropical plants, beaches, recreation, and cafes, enabled by sustainable technology.
You can view full plans for each proposal here or at the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, until Sept. 13.