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Higgins weighs in on Skyway detours, DOT says it's covered

Even the state Department of Transportation admits it will be confusing at first navigating around the Skyway when it is under construction for the next two summers, but a spokeswoman said the DOT said has come up with a reasonable and effective plan.

But Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, is calling on the DOT to do more during the $29 million rehabilitation of the deck.

“There seems to be an indifference to the fact that the public is going to be inconvenienced for two years,” Higgins said. “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.”

"Obviously, when you interrupt traffic for 40,000 motorists a day, there's going to be an impact," said DOT spokeswoman Susan Surdej.

Higgins has long called for removing the Skyway, and in 2016 the state agreed to conduct a full environmental impact study on replacing the elevated roadway. Surdej said the work being done on the road now will not preclude any option in the future.

"We're trying to be creative to move as much traffic during construction," she said.

That means having inbound lanes open for the morning commute, and outbound lanes open during the afternoon commute. The road will be closed in both directions from 3 to 5 a.m. and 11 a.m. to noon on weekdays when the switch in traffic directions is being made.

Two-year Skyway rehab will complicate life for commuters

Higgins sent a letter last summer to the state transportation commissioner suggesting the use of digital information technology during the rehabilitation of the bridge, which will take place starting the end of April, and next summer. He suggested synchronizing signals on South Park Avenue, Ohio and Seneca streets that will get the bulk of the detour traffic to improve traffic flow. He also said "real time" digital message boards to display current travel time to downtown via the Skyway, South Park Avenue or the Thruway could be used.

And while Higgins said the DOT never responded to his proposals, Surdej said traffic signals will be synchronized. A number of temporary signals will be used as well, she said.

There will be message boards, but she said they will not be "real time" like the one used on the southbound Lockport Expressway (Interstate-990) because this is a temporary situation from April to November this year and next year. But the DOT will stay in contact with the Niagara International Transportation Technology Coalition (NITTEC), which monitors traffic in the area, and the DOT will be able to change the messages quickly, she said.

"This is what we do," Surdej said about moving traffic.

A public information session is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m. April 18 in the Gateway Building, 3556 Lakeshore Blvd., Hamburg, where motorists can talk to engineers and pick up pamphlets detailing the detours.

"We want people to get this information, we want people to plan the best routes for themselves," Surdej said.

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