Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster
Since it first opened in the 1960's, critics have called the north section of the Robert Moses Parkway in Niagara Falls a concrete moat which separates the city from it's waterfront and allows motorists to bypass its North End business district where shuttered storefronts now far outnumber open ones.
Mayor Paul Dyster, who has long called for the Parkway's removal, is now stepping up efforts which could in effect create an end run around what he calls foot dragging by the two state agencies which have authority over the Parkway.
"It's very important to the city at this time to try and resolve the Robert Moses Parkway issue," Dyster told 2 On Your Side.
"The city is putting substantial investment into the North End where we're locating our new courthouse and getting ready to start work on our train station. The once piece of the puzzle that hasn't been addressed is the Robert Moses Parkway," Dyster said.
To say the Parkway issue hasn't been addressed may not be agreeable to the State Department of Transportation and the State Parks Department, both of which have embarked on numerous studies over the years regarding the Parkway.
Still, Dyster believes "this is probably not as vital from their perspective as it is from the city's as far as the future goes and I think they're less anxious about resolving this than we are."
"We're anxious to begin," insisted State Regional Parks Director Mark Thomas. "It certainly is a priority but like everything else it's moving through the process and these things take time, especially now when the Governor has instituted significant controls on state spending."
Thomas says his agency is currently taking the steps needed to get a contract approved to hire a consultant to begin the so called "scoping process", whereby public input on a project is gathered. It would be a step similar to one undertaken already fro the southern portion of the Parkway near the Niagara Reservation State Park.
"The process will move forward," Thomas said.
It's not moving forward fast enough for Dyster, who now believes he could perform an end run around the state. For while he has no control over the Parkway, Dyster says the city could revamp Whirlpool Street, which runs parallel to it, into a wider boulevard that would provide a first class thoroughfare to move traffic which would also (unlike the parkway) connect to other city streets which serve the north end.
More importantly, Dyster believes it could render the Parkway obsolete, perhaps forcing the state's hand in removing it once and for all.
To begin this "end run", Dyster needs about $800,000 for an engineering study which he says can be plucked from a pot of money set aside to effort the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway, ...but which up till now has gone unspent. Once accomplished, he believes a Whirlpool Street makeover could qualify as "shovel ready" and therefore be eligible for federal stimulus funds.
"It's the city that's got a vital interest involved in this and it's the city that's in a hurry. We believe this is going to be an economic driver," Dyster said.
WGRZ-TV, wgrz.com, niagarafallsvoice.com