The current Niagara Scenic Parkway above Niagara Falls should be replaced with a new road that wouldn't cut off the City of Niagara Falls from its waterfront, Rep. Brian Higgins said Tuesday.
The New York Power Authority should foot the bill for the removal of what used to be called the Robert Moses Parkway from Interstate 190 to the entrance to Niagara Falls State Park, Higgins said at a news conference at the authority's intakes along the parkway. Higgins estimated that might cost $50 million.
Higgins called for "a real parkway" with cut-throughs to the waterfront on such streets as Hyde Park Boulevard and Portage Road, which currently cannot reach the river because of the parkway.
The draft of a Niagara Falls Opportunity Area study, released earlier this year, called for removal of the eastbound lanes of the divided four-lane parkway, with the westbound lanes converted to two-lane traffic. But Higgins said he's not committed to any particular design.
Since the power authority built the parkway, destroyed homes and cut off the Falls from the city, it is "responsible morally, legally and financially for the fix," Higgins said.
The $42 million removal of the parkway along the Niagara River Gorge, a project set to begin next year, is being funded almost entirely by NYPA. Higgins said the authority ought to pay for the makeover of the 134 acres it owns along the upper river, too.
The authority's funding for the removal of the parkway from downtown Niagara Falls to Findlay Drive sets a precedent of it accepting responsibility "for the entire Robert Moses Parkway and the fix that goes along with it."
Higgins said the authority also ought to rehabilitate the contaminated former DuPont property off Buffalo Avenue and the adjacent Gill Creek, a tributary of the Niagara River.
The New York Power Authority doesn't own that property, but it borders on authority land. Higgins, in a letter to authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones, said such a move would "right the historic wrong they created through their support of the chemical industry in Niagara Falls."
The final design of the road along the river should be drawn up with community input, Higgins said.
By 2020 the authority will have invested $160 million in projects to reconnect Niagara Falls with its waterfront, including funding the Niagara River Greenway and gorge restoration, as well as the removal of the northern section of the parkway, according to the authority.
"NYPA is eager to continue its community engagement as we work together to reimagine the Niagara Falls region. We will continue to engage on future scoping processes connected with the Niagara Scenic Parkway as we look to reach public consensus on any additional renovations," according to a statement from the authority.