NIAGARA FALLS - Members of the city’s tourism advisory board will get some help with their concerns about the Robert Moses Parkway from the Republican state senator representing Niagara Falls.
Following a meeting Monday at City Hall, state Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Niagara Falls and Buffalo, agreed to bring the board’s parkway issues to the attention of State Parks Commissioner Rose Harvey and Western District State Parks Director Mark Thomas.
“I will work on this and we’ll go from there,” Grisanti told the advisory board.
Grisanti agreed to help after hearing from several members of the board who expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of progress on the city’s ongoing effort to remove the northern section of the parkway and the state’s upkeep along the two lanes nearest the Niagara Gorge which were closed as part of a pilot program several years ago.
The tourism advisory board, the Falls city council and Mayor Paul Dyster’s administration are all on record in support of parkway removal, a project that is staunchly opposed by officials and residents in Lewiston and other communities to the north. Advisory board member Lisa Vitello presented Grisanti with traffic studies and information about plans for parkway removal and similar roadway removal projects that are already underway in other parts of the country. She argued that the parkway has for years essentially allowed traffic to bypass inner-city roads, contributing to the decline of Main Street in particular. She also told Grisanti that she believes removing it would not only help revitalize Niagara Falls and enhance the appeal of the area for eco-tourists. As for concerns raised by Lewiston and other communities to the north, she reasoned that other routes could accommodate traffic heading to and from places like Old Fort Niagara.
“Right now, that road just diverts everything around us,” Vitello said.
While cost is another concern often raised by opponents of parkway removal, Vitello said research suggests the project could be done for $4 million. She argued that the state will spend more than that on maintenance of the parkway during the next five years. She criticized the state’s approach to the roadway in recent months, noting that the state Department of Transportation started an improvement project on the road earlier this year at a time when state parks is working on a scoping study to determine if the northern section should continue to exist. Vitello called on Grisanti to say “enough is enough” when it comes to the parkway issue.
“Either the study was a waste of money or the construction was a waste of money,” she said. “What are they doing?”
The condition of the two lanes nearest the gorge is not acceptable either, according to several advisory board members. Board Chairman Jerry Genova told Grisanti the board is forwarding a letter to Thomas asking him to trim some of the overgrowth and generally tidy up the southbound lanes to the city line. A five-mile stretch along those two lanes was closed as part of a 2001 pilot program aimed at reserving the two lanes nearest to the gorge for pedestrian traffic. Genova described the condition of the pilot area as “completely disgusting.” He told Grisanti the overgrown grass and weeds in the pilot area presents a poor image to passers-by. He called on Grisanti to encourage Harvey and Thomas to do something about the section’s “curb appeal.”
Grisanti said he would take up the advisory board’s parkway concerns with the head of the state senate’s parks committee and would reach out to Harvey and Thomas in an effort to schedule meetings with them. He also suggested it may be possible to invite Harvey to the area so she can get a firsthand look at the condition of the parkway herself.
“I think it’s an expensive project, but there are other ways to get to Lewiston,” Grisanti said.