Higgins Calls For Expediting Environmental Impact Study Examining Future of the Buffalo Skyway

Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) wrote a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner, urging the department to publicly release the schedule for the Environmental Impact Study (EIS) of the Buffalo Skyway and expedite the study to ensure the Department of Transportation makes appropriate choices in regard to how much money will be spent rehabilitating the Skyway.

The Environmental Impact Study will assess the costs and benefits of long-term changes to the Skyway, which include the possibilities of rehabilitation, replacement, and removal. The EIS was authorized in December; however the schedule for the review process has not been made public.  Meanwhile, the Department of Transportation intends to spend $27.5 million next year on repairs to sustain the structure for the next 20 years.

Congressman Higgins is advocating that the Department of Transportation should spend only as much as is required to maintain the safety of the structure, but that they should hold off on any extraneous improvements until the results of the EIS are finalized. He questions the long-term stability of the more than 60 year-old Skyway, which has been deemed “fracture critical,” meaning that if one element of the structure were to break down, the entire Skyway would be compromised, and “functionally obsolete” under federal highway standards, due to its lack of shoulders, a feature which frequently causes the highway to shut-down completely when accidents occur.

Higgins said, “An objective EIS should come to the conclusion that the most cost effective and safe path forward is to demolish the Skyway in favor of a more modern alternative option, such as a lower span structure or a lift bridge.”

“Let’s be honest,” Higgins added, “The time is swiftly approaching where the Skyway will need yet another paint job, which itself comes with a price tag in the range of $15-20 million. How much longer will we throw good money at this badly outdated transportation infrastructure?”

Congressman Higgins believes that the Buffalo Skyway, originally designed to accommodate industrial shipments, has outlived its functional usefulness and hinders waterfront development opportunities. The Skyway, Higgins says, is a “loud, polluting, disruptive, 110-foot-tall piece of unsafe, unreliable, 1950s infrastructure.  Do we invest millions of dollars in the past or build something that meets the needs of our community today?”

New York State is investing more than $58 billion in bridges and transportation projects downstate.  In Higgins’ letter, he commended Governor Cuomo’s leadership addressing the State’s infrastructure needs and believes that replacing the Buffalo Skyway should be a priority for the State.

Project  Cost  (in billions)
Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge  $       3.98
Second Ave. Subway Phase I  $       4.40
Second Ave. Subway Phase II  $       6.00
Penn Station Access  $       0.70
LIRR Third Track  $       1.95
Moynihan Station  $       1.60
NYC Subway Enhanced Station Initiative  $       4.00
East Side Access (Bringing LIRR to Grand Central)  $    10.18
MTA Bridges (Total cost of projects below)  $       2.63
  Bronx-Whitestone Bridge improvements
  Henry Hudson Bridge
  Rockaway Bridges
  Hugh Carey Tunnel
  Queens-Midtown Tunnel
  RFK Bridge
  Throgs Neck Bridge
Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
Hudson River tunnel  $    12.90
George Washington Bridge  $       1.80
Lincoln Tunnel  $       1.50
Port Authority Bus Terminal Replacement  $       3.50
LaGuardia Terminal C  $       0.60
JFK Redevelopment/LaGuardia Air Train  $       2.50
Kosciuszko Bridge  $       0.55

Total (in Billions)

 $    58.78

Comments