Buffalo businessman Patrick Whalen is being floated to lead the New York State Department of Transportation in the likely event that Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul will replace the increasingly embattled Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Whalen is a longtime civic leader who has served on the Board of the Peace Bridge Authority and founded the Niagara Global Tourism Institute.
Western New York has several major roadway projects under the purview of the DOT that could have transformative economic and urban design impacts. Among them:
- Finish the removal of the Robert Moses Parkway. The State is just now completing the removal of a two-mile portion of the waterfront highway, to much acclaim. The removal has restored public access to the edge of the Niagara Gorge, making a huge swath of the City feel like a waterfront neighborhood again — from Niagara Falls to Whirlpool State Park. Now residents and Niagara Falls business leaders want to finish the job — both along the Upper Niagara River and along the rest of the Niagara Gorge. Doing so will require major reconstruction of Buffalo Avenue from the Grand Island Bridges to John Daley Boulevard.
- Removal of the Skyway and elevated portions of Route 5 along the outer harbor. Removing the Skyway and the elevated highway that feeds it will free up hundreds of acres of land with sweeping waterfront views. Embracing waterfront development with compelling, high-quality urban design can transform the national perception of the City of Buffalo.
- Removal of the Scajaquada Expressway. Many urban design advocates want the highway entirely removed from the Kensington Expressway to the I-190. They argue that the land that the 3.8-mile roadway occupies should be repurposed as public park space, along a restored Scajaquada Creek.
- Seneca Nation Toll Booths. Hochul is being encouraged to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Seneca Nation of Indians’ Department of Transportation, which plans to erect toll booths along the I-90 as it traverses the sovereign Cattaraugus Territory. The Nation also plans to erect tolls along I-86 near Salamanca, where it traverses the sovereign Allegany Territory. The Nation will be using the toll revenues to maintain roadways on those Territories.
- Airport access to I-90. The Buffalo Niagara International Airport wants improved access to the New York State Thruway with new access ramps at Youngs Road in Amherst, located behind the Airport. The exit ramps will also alleviate traffic on Main Street in Williamsville.
The NYS DOT coordinates and develops comprehensive transportation policy for the State; including the development and operation of transportation facilities and services for highways, railroads, mass transit systems, ports, waterways, and aviation facilities; and formulates a long-range, comprehensive statewide master plan for the balanced development of public and private commuter and general transportation facilities.