The future use of the Niagara River gorge will depend largely on whatever decisions are made about the Robert Moses Parkway, public planners agreed Tuesday.
"The parkway is the most dominant, foremost feature along the rim of the gorge," Larry Krizan told about 30 people at an information meeting sponsored by the state Office of Parks at the Schoellkopf Geological Museum.
Krizan, coordinator of development services for the City of Niagara Falls, said the high-speed, limited-access parkway "has been a failure" in attracting traffic to Fort Niagara State Park, which is at the northern end of the 12-mile long highway.
He said far more people visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., which is just across the Niagara River from Fort Niagara, and is served by a less highly developed, narrow, low-speed parkway.
Krizan suggested that some sort of people-mover -- tram, bus, trolley car, monorail or train -- be built along the parkway route to replace "thousands of cars and redundant pavement."
He said the parallel routes of the parkway, Lewiston Road and other thoroughfares were "redundant." Krizan stressed, however, that he was talking about a people-mover along the edge of the upper rim of the gorge, not along the river at the bottom of the gorge.
"We do not plan to run a train in the gorge. We do not plan any commercial development in the gorge," he assured the audience.
Consultants to the Niagara Waterfront Action Committee have suggested three alternatives for the portion of the Robert Moses Parkway between downtown Niagara Falls and Artpark in Lewiston.
One would be to retain the existing parkway, but to reduce the 55-mph speed, join it with intersections to residential streets and eliminate parallel sections of Whirlpool Street and Lewiston Road.
A second would be to eliminate many sections of the parkway, including the elimination of overpasses near the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and at Route I-190, and to use Whirlpool Street and Lewiston Road instead of the parkway wherever possible.
The third would be to abandon the southbound lanes of the parkway and to convert the northbound lanes to two-way traffic, while also eliminating the overpasses at the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge and at the I-190, and using Whirlpool Street and Lewiston Road wherever possible.
No cost estimates were made, but planners said the second and third alternatives would cost about three times as much as the first. They added that only about 6,800 vehicles use the Robert Moses daily, although it could handle up to 50,000.
Harvey N. Albond, assistant director of planning and industrial development for Niagara County, said the County Legislature's Committee on Commerce, Transportation and Tourism was interested in discussing the alternative that would retain the existing parkway, but was opposed to the other two.
Brian Dunnigan, executive director of Old Fort Niagara, said he "would like to see more planning on how people would travel north beyond Artpark to reach Youngstown and Old Fort Niagara." Most of Tuesday's discussion was about the section between Niagara Falls and Artpark, although portions of the parkway extend to Fort Niagara in one direction and to the north Grand Island bridges in the other.
Thomas Lyons, an environmental analyst for the state Office of Parks, said Tuesday's discussions were "not decisions; they are suggestions and concerns. This is not a finished proposal."