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Stimulus funds sought for harbor lift bridge

Local political leaders are applying for $90 million in federal economic-stimulus funds to build a lift bridge connecting downtown to the waterfront.

The bridge over the Buffalo River would be what Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, calls the next step in the "seamless progression" of revitalizing the waterfront and presenting the transportation alternative needed to eventually tear down the Skyway.

If the funding is approved, work on the bridge -- one of two or three that Higgins believes will ultimately be needed -- would begin months after the November 2010 completion of the 3.3-mile project converting Fuhrmann Boulevard into an Olmsted-like parkway with easy access to the waterfront.

"The parkway and this bridge will fundamentally change the Buffalo waterfront environment, from inaccessible land to land that is highly accessible with aesthetically pleasing routes," Higgins said.

"It's part of a strategic vision and plan to show that as we're building the parkway today, we're planning for the next step so we see a seamless progression toward a comprehensive change of the Buffalo waterfront environment."

The application, with the support of Mayor Byron W. Brown and Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., was made to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Higgins said that the bridge would have to be under contract by 2011 to qualify for the funds but that the timetable is achievable.

The congressman said his preference is for the bridge to be at Main Street or Erie Street, two of the possible sites under review by the harbor development agency.

Higgins also praised the progress of Erie Canal Harbor, where he attended a concert by the group Great Big Sea earlier this month, and pointed to the planned unearthing of four historic cobblestone streets within the next year as another sign of the good things to come.

e-mail: msommer@buffnews.com

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