What would you like to see on the Outer Harbor?
I’m certainly in favor of keeping the public lands west of Route 5 accessible to the public and favor the 21st Century Park proposal. My real concern is that our elected officials have ignored the REAL problem with the Outer Harbor and that is ACCESS. We need the correct access for the new uses envisioned for the waterfront. Since the Skyway was put in place (1955?) there have been only 3 changes to the roads/bridges. All of these have reduced access. These were the loss of the S. Michigan Ave bridge, the removal of the lift bridge over the Union Ship Canal, and the removal of the section of Ohio Street which connected to Tifft. The re-do of Fuhrmann and the elevated section of Route 5 were simply cosmetic in nature.
Why is infrastructure so important? It takes a huge amount of money, plenty of planning and most critically, its almost impossible to correct once its been put in place incorrectly.
Stephen Covey would refer to it as a “First things First” item. He describes it this way. “You cannot expect to harvest in the Fall if you do not plant in the Spring; no amount of manure will produce a crop if you don’t plant on time” This, in my opinion is the biggest reason we have seen such slow progress on the waterfront.
So, on to the proposed solution.
First, re-route Route 5 east at Tifft, using that very nice four lane bridge over the tracks, then head north along the railroad right of way crossing the Buffalo River with a regular bridge. Work this four lane 45 mph boulevard into the Niagara section at Hamburg Street. Yes, there is a riverfront park nearby, but lets compromise and create some more riverfront park area somewhere else. This would allow demolition of the Skyway, its four downtown on/off ramps and the removal of the elevated Route 5.
Next, put back the bridge over the Union Ship Canal reconnecting the Hamburg Turnpike with Fuhrmann Boulevard. There was a “bailey” bridge there for a short time when the Father Baker was being lowered. It’s a no-brainer.
Finally, connect up downtown with the Outer Harbor with an Immersed Tube Tunnel. We don’t need two more lift bridges messing up the view, which is the current proposal being pushed on us. When the Buffalo Harbor Bridge project was being evaluated they evaluated just one tunnel but it was at Erie Street, and more importantly it was a ‘bored’ tunnel deep under the river. This made the approaches very long and the location calls for as short an approach as possible. For this same reason the two lift bridges proposed will be very low in the down position necessitating the bridges be raised for sailboats in the summer!
An Immersed Tube Tunnel uses technology where sections of the tunnel are built off-site and lowered into place from ships. The Turkish government recently built a subway tunnel between the two parts of the city of Istanbul using this technology. Bosphorus Straight is over a mile wide and 200 feet deep in spots yet they had few problems. Buffalo River is 700 feet across and you need about 20 feet of depth for freighters.
Obvious advantages are; tunnel always open, no operators needed, no salt into the Buffalo River and better in wintertime, lower maintenance costs and longer lifetime. Less obvious advantages; its easier to run light rail to the outer harbor, its more flexible in design (you can curve it aound those pesky grain elevators), and best of all there’s almost NO visible “footprint” in the historic Canalside area. The one drawback, you would have to ban hazardous materials trucks as fire is a significant hazard in tunnels.
So there it is, a blueprint for changing the infrastructure. Cost a lot of money? you betcha. Worth the investment? Absolutely. The nice thing about coming up with such a plan is that, once the public agrees to it, real change will come more quickly and at a steadier pace. The guys that built the Erie Canal are rolling in their graves at the lack of cohesive planning our leaders have shown so far.
From Jim R.
The views expressed in these are of the public, and not specifically put forth by 21st Century Park.