Riverfront Parkway Project Could Lose Federal Funds

September 10, 2012 Updated Sep 11, 2012 at 9:27 AM EDT

By Ed Reilly

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September 10, 2012 Updated Sep 11, 2012 at 9:27 AM EDT

Buffalo, N.Y (News Release) Environmental review complete, funding in place but Congressman Higgins warns community must act or risk losing federal funding.

Congressman Brian Higgins joined community stakeholders to call for swift action on the proposal to convert Ohio Street in the City of Buffalo from a broken and dilapidated stretch of industrial roadway into a Riverfront Parkway.

"Public infrastructure investments at Canalside and the Outer Harbor are making way for exciting economic development opportunities for Buffalo and Western New York," said Congressman Higgins. "Ohio Street provides another means to rebuild connections and with it rebuild enthusiasm, interest and access to our emerging waterfront and surrounding businesses."

Ohio Street is the vital link between Canalside and the Outer Harbor. It runs along the Buffalo River, adjacent to Buffalo Riverfest Park, and serves as the gateway to Buffalo's Civil-War-Era Old First Ward neighborhood. The Ohio Street corridor continues on a path parallel to Fuhrmann Boulevard which was recently transformed into the new Outer Harbor Parkway.

Once complete, a reconstructed Ohio Street Parkway would include safe and appealing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, innovative and environmentally-friendly stormwater management systems, generous ecologically appropriate landscaping and interpretive and wayfinding elements.

Representatives from the Old First Ward Community Center, Valley Community Center, Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Industrial Heritage Committee and the business community have long supported area improvements and stood in support of action.

Approximately $11 million in funding is already in place for the Ohio Street project, including $8.8 million in federal dollars. Congressman Higgins warns that $2.5 million in federal appropriations are at risk of rescission if unspent in a timely matter. Furthermore, under an agreement with the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) $5.1 million in federal dollars are scheduled to lapse by October 31, 2013.

In addition to pushing the project at the local level, Congressman Higgins wrote a letter to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary LaHood requesting as the project be expedited as it moves through the review process by the Federal Highway Administration and the Federal Transit Administration.

Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation recently issued a Request for Qualifications for final design of the project. Environmental reviews on this project were included in the Southtowns Connector FEIS completed in 2007, therefore the Congressman is hopeful work could begin next construction season.