For many reasons, I support Assemblyman Brian Higgins' plan for removing the Skyway. The bridge is unsafe, expensive and stands as an obstacle to waterfront development in Buffalo.
As a lieutenant in the Accident Investigation Unit with 33 years of experience as a Buffalo police officer, I want to highlight the public safety problems and other police-related issues with the Skyway.
It is my personal opinion that the Skyway is deadly and an expensive structure in regard to maintenance and manpower costs.
In the past three years, there have been 1,269 calls for police/emergency services on the Skyway, and 167 of these calls resulted in personal injury or death. I have personally responded to many of these calls.
I also have directed disabled motorists under high wind conditions to remain in their vehicles until their cars could be pushed from the top of the complex, rather than face the very real possibility of being blown off the Skyway.
Severe lake-effect weather and the elevation of the Skyway cause not only unsafe conditions, but also require extraordinary maintenance and operating costs. When the temperature reaches near freezing, tons of road salt must be applied to the bridge as a precautionary measure. This is expensive and also accelerates the bridge's deterioration.
When the Skyway is closed several times each winter, six patrol cars and police officers are tied up during the entire duration of the closing. This is a waste of valuable police resources.
There are many good reasons to remove and replace the Skyway with something better and less expensive. But the public safety reasons alone justify Higgins' call to aggressively review alternatives to this deadly structure.
ROBERT J. PENDERS
Buffalo Police Department