Back in 1930, the newly constructed Bailey Avenue Bridge made its debut over the Buffalo River and Cazenovia Creek.
So did future Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins a short distance away in the Old First Ward.
Eighty-eight years later, public works officials are replacing the worn-out span with a new $22 million structure. Higgins, meanwhile, is still going strong and is about to have the new crossing named in his honor.
Along with two new green spaces below – the new bridge will soon be christened the Sheriff Thomas F. Higgins Riverfront Bridge and Parks.
Though he is no relation, Rep. Brian Higgins spearheaded the move that this week is slated to gain formal approval by the Erie County Legislature and next week by the Buffalo Common Council.
“Given his 42-year career in law enforcement, I would submit Tom is the most accomplished local law enforcement leader of his generation,” the congressman said Wednesday. “I thought it an appropriate acknowledgement of a good and extraordinary man who has served his country and his community.”
Thomas Higgins, 88, is a Marine Corps veteran of the Korean War who served 21 years in the Buffalo Police Department before the Democrat was tapped by former Republican Sheriff Kenneth J. Braun in 1977 to be undersheriff. Higgins then succeeded Braun in 1985 when he was elected sheriff, retiring in 1997.
Since his retirement, Higgins has volunteered for veteran, civic and public safety organizations. He was president of the Buffalo Naval and Military Park Board of Directors, a member of the Buffalo Commission on Citizen’s Rights and Community Relations, president of the SUNY Buffalo State Alumni Association and chairman of the Korean War Memorial Committee.
Rep. Higgins noted the new span, slated for completion in September, is funded by 80 percent federal funds along with state and city dollars, and will be maintained by the city. The county, meanwhile, will be responsible for the two parks along the river below.
An interpretative sign board at the bridge entrance will be unveiled later this year, the congressman said, which will briefly highlight the former sheriff’s career and accomplishments. Rep. Higgins said a formal dedication ceremony will be held in the fall.
The congressman and sheriff are South Buffalo residents and longtime friends.