City of Buffalo not prioritizing Skyway plans

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Buffalo's Skyway will be under the microscope this year and beyond, with many key stakeholders keeping a close eye on any developments on the major roadway in and out of Buffalo.

Governor Andrew Cuomo's State of the State address said that the Skyway "stands in the way" of shifts in the popularity of Downtown Buffalo. Last year, New York announced the winning design of the Skyway and are currently in the midst of an environmental study at the site which will complete by the middle of 2021. SWBR Architects won the competition with their "City of Lights" design. Their proposal has an estimated $330 million to $340 million price tag that could take years to complete and would need millions more in federal funding to complete.

"By removing the Skyway and investing in new infrastructure, New York State will free up over a dozen acres in downtown Buffalo and over 75 additional acres along the four-mile corridor, allowing Buffalo to capitalize on the City's most unique asset - it's waterfront," the governor's state of the state book said.

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown gave Cuomo credit for moving the idea forward but said there are other priorities in the City of Buffalo such as tackling poverty, unemployment, health disparities, and more.

"There are different opinions about the Skyway," Brown said. "Some thing its critical for it to come down quickly. Others, not so much. The governor has taken the position that he would like to put things in the position where the Skyway can come down and the reuse of it will be even better for the Buffalo and Western New York community."

South District Councilman Chris Scanlon said the city will clearly have some say on the Skyway's future but echoed Brown's comments that the city will likely not put all its eggs in one basket.

"We have too many other things taking place with all the momentum the city has seen in the past few years," Scanlon said.

The Skyway soars over Canalside and any progress made on the Skyway will have some impact there. Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation President Steve Ranalli said that if there no bridge there, it will help imagine what Canalside could be at its full potential.

"We've planned around the Skyway to this point," Ranalli said. "I think that Canalside has been moving forward in slow but steady steps and we certainly have a lot of development planned to open this year and more to get started. It's not a detriment to the project but if it were to come down, there would be up to 12 acres of land on the inner harbor side of things that would open up or be more easily developed in the long run. I think that's a positive thing."

The good news for Canalside is that the Skyway only impacts about one-quarter of the land that the popular area encompasses. Ranalli said none of the upcoming projects like Heritage Point or the mixed-use development on the North Aud Block will be impacted by what happens on the Skyway. Land near the Skyway could close down if the Skyway is torn down, but Ranalli said it's a short-term interruption that would be outweighed by the long-term gains.