Will a road by any other name still cause controversy here?

BY MIKE HUDSON

While lawmakers representing Niagara County may lack the political will to remove the Robert Moses Parkway, the state Senate has recently taken the bull by the horns and moved to change the road’s name.

Sen. Rob Ortt introduced a bill to rename the Robert Moses Parkway as the Niagara Scenic Parkway. Under Ortt’s bill, the entire stretch of the 18.42 mile highway – running from Niagara Falls to Youngstown – would be changed to the newly designated name.

“Community members overwhelmingly supported changing the parkway’s name to something more advantageous to tourists,” said Ortt. “The name Niagara Scenic Parkway is more appealing and reflects the positive transformation the City of Niagara Falls is undergoing with the removal of the north section of the parkway. Once the project is completed, there will be more green space, access to the waterfront will be expanded and enhanced, and tourists will have more to do on the Niagara River gorge.”

The legislation follows a resolution approved unanimously by the Niagara County Legislature on March 1 recommending the state rename the Robert Moses Parkway. The resolution stated in part, “the name Robert Moses means little to tourists and is no longer descriptive of today’s purpose of informing visitors this roadway will take you to the prime viewing areas.”

The initial idea was prompted by Lewiston resident Mamie Simonson several months ago, whose Whirlpool Street home in Niagara Falls was demolished in 1959 in order to build the Robert Moses Parkway.

The state highway was originally known as the Niagara Parkway. In the 1960s, it was changed to the Robert Moses State Parkway after public works developer Robert Moses.

The Robert Moses Parkway South “Riverway” project is currently under construction. Public scoping on the north project, which entails removal of the Robert Moses Parkway and reconstruction of Whirlpool Street between Main Street and Findlay Drive, began in 2013. Under the current timeline, final design must be completed this year, followed by bid solicitation and then construction commencing late next year.

Even as Ortt’s plan to rename the roadway winds its way through the state Legislature, where it still must be approved in the Assembly, Rep Brian Higgins has called on the Federal Highway Administration to expedite the project.

In a letter to FHWA, Higgins pressed the department to commence review of the lengthy draft design report while a brief amount of fieldwork awaits the spring thaw.

“While the City of Niagara Falls anxiously awaits progress, a vehicle to help the community reclaim its waterfront sits,” Higgins said. “There is no reason why the lengthy process for review can’t begin today.”

The New York Power Authority has committed to fund the design costs and 70 percent of the construction costs for the Robert Moses Parkway North removal project, formally known as the Niagara Gorge Corridor Project.

Niagara Falls Mayor first ran for office on a platform that advocated the complete removal of the Robert Moses in 2007. The project has languished since then.

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