Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) is calling on the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) to take immediate proactive action to ease traveler inconvenience during rehabilitation of the Buffalo Skyway.
Construction on the Skyway is expected to begin in March 2018 and continue through June 2020. During construction, one or both lanes of the Skyway will be closed for multiple hours each day. Total cost of the project is nearly $30 million.
“There seems to be an indifference to the fact that public is going to be inconvenienced for two years,” said Congressman Higgins. “This is a plan that will lead to public confusion and frustration. More should be done to allow for adequate preparation for traffic congestion mitigation.”
Last August Higgins wrote to the DOT calling on the Department to “invest in synchronizing the signalization of at least three arteries, and possibly others, in order to increase throughput capacity during construction.” The Congressman pointed out that Skyway closings due to accidents and severe weather provides clues to understand how commuters use alternate routes. During those incidents, we see increased traffic on Ohio Street, South Park Avenue, Seneca Street and other major roadways.
The Congressman noted that the recent synchronization of signals on Clinton Street in Buffalo resulted in a 36% reduction in travel time in that corridor at a cost of $4,000 per signal. Applying similar measures, synchronization along the three primary Skyway alternative routes, which include 45 signals in total, would allow for increased capacity and/or reduced travel time during Skyway rehab and well into the future at a cost less than $200,000.
Higgins also called for digital message boards linked to real-time traffic sensors (similar to those currently deployed on the I-990) to provide motorists with live information about which route is fastest. The DOT has not responded to the Congressman’s proposal or otherwise indicated plans to implement these simple and cost-effective traffic congestion mitigation measures.
Higgins added, “Signal synchronization would provide better driving conditions for motorists during construction as well as delivering long-term traffic flow benefits to neighborhoods and business districts. This shift in traffic patterns is an opportunity to reactivate some of our secondary routes but the driver experience must be a positive one.”
The Buffalo Skyway is a 1.4 mile elevated highway opened in 1956 when Buffalo’s bustling port received twenty million tons of cargo annually via lake freighter. Today the structure looms over prime property at Canalside and an additional 27 acres of property along the Outer Harbor. In May of 2016 Congressman Higgins called for and in July 2016 the NYSDOT agreed to conduct a full and formal Environmental Impact Study (EIS) that will examine replacing the Skyway with better infrastructure.