NIAGARA FALLS – The next step in giving the city part of its waterfront back is ready to move forward.
The New York Power Authority on Tuesday allocated $2 million for preliminary engineering and design work to remove a 2-mile stretch of the Robert Moses Parkway between Main Street and Findlay Drive.
Last year, after years of discussion, the state decided to take out that section of highway, replace it with a multiuse nature trail and turn Whirlpool Street into a low-speed, two-lane parkway.
That decision was formalized in October, but at the time, state officials said funding was needed before design work could proceed.
Once a firm is hired, it is expected to take about 18 months to complete the work, officials said in October.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, whose district includes the Falls, spoke about the issue from the floor of the House on Tuesday.
“Removal of the parkway is a critical step in giving the city the waterfront it deserves and unleashing the limitless economic potential that comes with it,” Higgins said. “The New York Power Authority did the right thing, and the future of Niagara Falls will be better because of it.”
Funds will cover design work for the removal of the stretch of highway, landscape and habitat restoration of the Niagara Gorge rim on land to be reclaimed from the parkway removal, as well as the full-depth reconstruction of Whirlpool Street.
The estimated cost for the design work in October was $1.5 million.
A Power Authority representative said that the estimate for the work remains $1.5 million and that the additional $500,000 was provided as a contingency.
Plans for what to do with the parkway north of Findlay Drive heading toward Lewiston have not been finalized. It will either become a two-lane park road with an adjacent nature trail or a completely natural environment with vehicle access only on existing residential streets.
The parkway was built in the 1960s as a supplement to the Niagara Power Project.
Turning the landscape back into a more natural form coincides with the state’s plans to focus on ecotourism opportunities in the area. The state has previously announced that it will be seeking to increase the types of available recreational activities in the area to include things such as horseback riding, rock climbing and zip-lining.