Higgins: Take the Skyway Down

September 24, 2012 Updated Sep 24, 2012 at 8:51 PM EDT

By Rachel Elzufon

September 24, 2012 Updated Sep 24, 2012 at 8:51 PM EDT

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) - One local lawmaker is calling for the Skyway to come down.

The Skyway is travelled by about 40-thousand commuters every day. However, Congressman Brian Higgins says the bridge is old and outdated. He believes building a smaller, tourist-friendly parkway is the solution.

Higgins say the Skyway is actually hurting Western New York. He says "There are 27.5 acres of land that otherwise could be developed and put on the tax roll -- it undermines Buffalo's ability to develop it's Waterfront to it's full potential."

The lawmaker says "We have more alternatives that are cheaper and better and more consistent with the Waterfront that's developing here."

Higgins has now sent a letter to the New York State Department of Transportation, requesting it to stop long-term maintenance on the bridge.

He believes the Skyway should be torn down -- and a new smaller bridge be built that would give the Waterfront room to grow.

The Buffalo Harbor Bridge would be much lower and would connect through Erie or Main Streets.

Construction would take two years and would include lanes for pedestrians as well.

However, some residents question -- could it handle all the traffic that the Skyway does?

Mary Shultz, who commutes on the Skyway every day, says "There's already traffic jams on the skyway so how would we get anywhere? Even the people that got to come to the city on the busses, that's where you got to go."

Others say, the Skyway is a part of the Queen City's history. Jean Grucza believes "It is a part of Buffalo, it's been here forever. I don't understand why it's a problem now."

Many, like Higgins, believe the Skyway is old and outdated. David Riley says having a bridge is important, but "To me the Skyway is quite an eye soar if you're standing over by First Niagara Center of the new canal."

The Skyway was built in the 1950's, when freight trains traveled underneath it. Higgins argues Buffalo is very different now, and needs different infrastructure.

Maria Patrick Oakley agrees, saying "A different type of structure that's closest to the ground would probably reduce how much stress there is in terms of the winds and the bad weather, so people could continue to use that bridge even in the bad winter weather."

Higgins say the Skyway would cost more than $100 million over the next 20 years in maintenance.

He adds tearing down the Skyway would cost $25 million and building the Buffalo Bridge would cost about $75 million.