Buffalo Billion Investments Are Funding Construction of New Riverway to Better Access to Niagara Falls State Park
View Plans For the Project Here.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced construction has broken ground on the Robert Moses Parkway South "Riverway," an $18.8 million project that will enhance access to the waterfront and to Niagara Falls State Park. Along the final one-mile stretch mostly within the State Park, all expressway features will be replaced with pedestrian-friendly park road that evokes the characteristics of Frederick Law Olmsted's original design that historically passed through the area.
“Niagara Falls is one of the most visited attractions in the nation, and this project will make it easier than ever for visitors to experience this natural wonder for themselves," Governor Cuomo said. "Investing in the Robert Moses Parkway will enhance the park, expand recreational opportunities, and work with hotel and entertainment projects in the downtown area to increase tourism and create jobs in the region."
Lieutenant Governor Robert J. Duffy said, "The Robert Moses Parkway is a significant channel that connects visitors to Niagara Falls. This project will make it easier to attract tourists and drive local development and job growth. With thanks to Governor Cuomo's leadership, this is another win for Niagara Falls and the Buffalo Billion initiative."
For many years, the elevated expressway has blocked views and access between downtown neighborhoods and the Upper Niagara River. This project, expected to result in most road work being completed by fall 2015 with all park landscaping work completed in spring 2016, will fully restore visual and physical access to the various natural and cultural features along the River.
As part of the project, an elevated interchange at John B. Daly Boulevard will be removed at the entrance to the State Park—along with the earthen berm on which it sits—and replaced with a modern roundabout and signature entry feature. Other plans include a full path system and nature areas, as well as a new water feature evoking the former Port Day Pond, a favorite local fishing and gathering spot for residents until it was filled in 1960 to make way for the Parkway.
All of these changes are aimed at allowing easier access to the Niagara River and the American Rapids – where for generations residents and visitors have had to cross four lanes of concrete expressway to access the water’s edge. Now there will be native plantings and a complete trail network to facilitate hiking, biking, fishing, cross-country skiing, all accessible from city streets for the first time in more than 50 years. In addition, there is currently more than $40 million of private investment along this one-mile stretch, in part due to this important infrastructure project.
Through the Buffalo Billion initiative, New York State is investing $10 million dollars toward the project’s construction phase. This is being added to $6.8 million in Department of Transportation funds through its Multi-Modal Access and other programs to cover $15.8 million in hard construction costs and $1.5 million in construction oversight. Included in the Department of Transportation allocation is about $1 million in federal highway funding passed through the State. Empire State Development previously approved a grant of $1.5 million to enable State Parks to complete final design and construction documents for the project.
The southern segment of the Robert Moses Parkway sits in part on land controlled by the New York Power Authority that was created as part of the development of the Niagara Power Project in the early 1960s. The expressway itself is owned by the New York State Office of Parks Recreation & Historic Preservation, and is maintained under agreement by the New York State Department of Transportation. In 2006, USA Niagara Development Corporation, Empire State Development’s Niagara Falls subsidiary, worked with State Parks, the Department of Transportation, the City of Niagara Falls and the New York Power Authority to draft a memorandum of understanding to jointly solicit funds for the reconfiguration of two key segments of the Parkway to open access to the City’s waterfront. Beginning construction on the Riverway represents the first of these efforts. In addition, the agencies recently began preliminary engineering and environmental review work to reconfigure a segment of the northern portion of the Parkway to open public access along the Niagara Gorge, funded by a grant from the New York Power Authority.
The construction contract for the project was awarded to Mark Cerrone, Inc. of Niagara Falls, New York. MCI has been involved in a number of major regional infrastructure projects such as reconstruction of Old Falls Street in Niagara Falls and construction of the cobblestone street network that is part of the Canalside area in Buffalo, as well as efforts to return cars to Main Street in Buffalo.
Commissioner of the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Rose Harvey said, “Creating an entrance to the nation’s oldest state park that is befitting of Frederick Law Olmsted’s vision is one of the goals of this project. When this project is complete visitors will enter Niagara Falls State Park from the Robert Moses Parkway South and know they have arrived somewhere special. Historic revitalization is happening at Niagara Falls State Park thanks to Governor Cuomo and his unending support for New York State Parks. I also wish to thank our terrific partners on this project at the Department of Transportation led by Commissioner Joan McDonald, President, CEO and Commissioner Ken Adams and his team at Empire State Development and President and CEO Gil Quiniones and the team at New York Power Authority.”
New York Power Authority President and Chief Executive Officer Gil C. Quiniones said, “The Niagara River is one of the state’s greatest natural wonders with stunning vistas and a diverse ecosystem. The repurposing of the Parkway will allow Niagara Falls residents and others to fully enjoy the proximity of the river and highlights the innovative partnership of the state and the city to add to the abundant attractions of this part of Western New York.”
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “Original construction of the Robert Moses Parkway took away this city’s most valuable asset—access to arguably the greatest waterfront in the world. It’s time we, as a community, take it back. This is about more than tearing something down, it’s about building something up. Transformation of the Robert Moses into a new Olmstedian Riverway brings the city closer to its waterfront and with that comes great opportunity.”
State Assemblyman John Ceretto said, “This project will finally provide the open views and access to the upper Niagara River that residents and tourists have been craving for decades. Governor Cuomo’s strategic plan for growing tourism focuses on taking advantage of all that our majestic Niagara Falls has to offer. This new gateway to the Falls will result in long term economic benefits by supporting lodging and retail projects on adjoining corridors, as they look to take advantage of this unique new view of our world famous natural wonder."
City of Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster said, “It is indisputable that Niagara Falls has one of the world’s greatest waterfronts, but for more than a generation, residents, visitors and businesses have been cut off from that resource by the Robert Moses Parkway. Now, with the visionary leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the strong support of his Western New York Regional Economic Development Council, a decades-long planning mistake will at long-last be corrected. Reconnecting the City to its iconic Niagara River waterfront will not only be a major economic benefit; it will also help our residents to recover their sense of identity and self-confidence as we work to accelerate the development of our tourism industry.”
Christopher J. Schoepflin, President of USA Niagara Development Corporation said, “The Riverway project will finally re-connect the City to its waterfront, create a proper welcome to both the City and the Park, and prove to be a catalyst for the future of tourism and economic growth in downtown Niagara Falls. This is truly a once-in-a-generation project and a lasting legacy for Governor Cuomo and all involved.”
Satish K. Tripathi, President of the University at Buffalo and Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair said, “Opening visual and physical access between the Upper Niagara River and downtown Niagara Falls is a natural component for enhancing tourism. Cities all over the world continue to newly discover the beauty and experiences their waterfronts have to offer. We celebrate the creation of this fully accessible waterfront. And, we envision generations of people enjoying the Riverway and surrounding environs which naturally lead to our spectacular waterfalls – one of the world’s great destinations.”
Howard Zemsky, Managing Partner at Larkin Development Group and Western New York Regional Economic Development Council Co-Chair said, “Breaking ground on the Riverway project is a critical step toward driving the region’s growth and tourism and providing long-term stability. The project open up access to the river’s edge and make adjoining neighborhoods more valuable for reinvestment as we already begin to see. This plan will revitalize the city and is true to Olmsted’s original vision for Niagara Falls.”
About the Buffalo Billion
With Governor Cuomo’s commitment to invest $1 billion in the Buffalo area economy, which is designed to spur significantly greater private investment and create thousands of new, sustainable jobs, New York State is helping the Buffalo area to realize immediate economic growth to put “generation now” back to work while setting the foundation for sustainable economic opportunity for future generations. The Western New York Regional Economic Development Council – a top economic development plan award winner – will play a key role in how the funding is used to support the expansion of local companies and how to target the attraction of new businesses across the country and around the globe to come to Buffalo. To learn more about the Buffalo Billion, visit www.buffalobillion.ny.gov.