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Falls to seek funds to redo parkway $40 million would pay for works on section south of Findlay, Prospect-Daly Blvd. stretch

The city will seek an estimated $40 million in federal stimulus money to reconfigure or remove two sections of the Robert Moses Parkway.

Mayor Paul A. Dyster said Tuesday he believes the money could help break a "logjam" over the highway by moving ahead with a project on two sections city officials believe are less controversial than points north of Findlay Drive.

The application will include a proposal to combine the section of the Robert Moses Parkway between Main Street and Findlay Drive with Whirlpool Street. The reconfigured scenic boulevard would run roughly where Whirlpool Street now is located, Dyster said.

"This is something that would be a major benefit," he said. "We keep getting focused on the Robert Moses aspect of this. What we're talking about really there is the expansion of the park at the falls down to the site of the Underground Railroad crossing where we're putting in our train station."

The City Council gave its approval Tuesday to applying for the funds from a discretionary grant program run by the U.S. Department of Transportation under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Dyster said the estimated $40 million cost for the project will be refined before an application is submitted by Sept. 15.

In addition to the section between Main Street and Findlay Drive, city officials say they hope to obtain funds to reconfigure the southern segment of the parkway between John B. Daly Boulevard and Prospect Street.

The $40 million estimate includes work on the southern section of the parkway.

The City of Niagara Falls agreed in 2006 to undergo a "scoping" process with Niagara Falls State Park, USA Niagara Development Corp. and the state Department of Transportation to determine the future of the parkway.

That process has encountered several delays.

Discussions over the parkway have provoked a fierce debate between those who want it removed between Niagara Falls and Lewiston and those who want to keep it intact.

But city officials contend that sections of the parkway south of Findlay Drive are less controversial.

The application for stimulus funds would seek to implement a vision for the parkway included in the city's master plan.

The scoping process will continue whether or not the city receives stimulus money for the project, Dyster said.

"We've got to eventually come to some consensus about what we're doing," Dyster said. "Everyone who is involved in that has to have an opportunity to make their views known."

Dyster said he and representatives from the state's Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation have contacted officials from communities north of Niagara Falls, including Lewiston and Youngstown, for support of the grant application.

He said projects under this round of stimulus applications are expected to be announced in October.

Work already has started on redesigning the southern section of the Robert Moses Parkway outside the entrance to Niagara Falls State Park between John B. Daly Boulevard and Prospect Street.

That portion of the project, expected to cost about $15 million, is currently underfunded by about $10 million, Dyster said.

The state already has applied for $22.4 million from stimulus funds dedicated to railroad projects for a new train station in Niagara Falls near the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge.

e-mail: djgee@buffnews.com

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