COMPONENT OF $56.7 MILLION NEW YORK GATEWAY CONNECTIONS IMPROVEMENT PROJECT
Closure of Baird Drive Enables Restoration of Historic Front Park
Ramp Opening Effective Tuesday, September 6
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the opening of the new ramp carrying traffic from Porter Avenue directly into the Peace Bridge U.S. Plaza. The new ramp allows for the closure of Baird Drive in Front Park to restore the historic park. The project is a key component of the $56.7 million New York Gateway Connections Improvement project in Buffalo and complements the state’s record $27 billion investment in roads and bridges, primarily in Upstate New York. The closure of Baird Drive and opening of the ramp are effective Tuesday, September 6.
“The Peace Bridge is an essential international crossing that is a critical driver of the Western New York economy,” Governor Cuomo said. “This milestone is a victory for the entire region that will help improve access and traffic flow on the American side of the bridge, as well as improve the quality of life for residents with the restoration of Front Park, one of the great gems of the region.”
The new ramp has been constructed to carry traffic from Porter Avenue directly into the Peace Bridge Plaza on an alignment located outside of and adjacent to Front Park. The new ramp alignment allows for the closure and removal of Baird Drive from the historic Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Front Park, thereby restoring four acres of park land and renewing the vision of Front Park.
State Department of Transportation Commissioner Matthew J. Driscoll said, “Governor Cuomo’s leadership has resulted in real progress being made in the area surrounding the Peace Bridge. Every project milestone that has been reached has contributed to improved access and mobility.”
The Porter Avenue Bridge over Interstate 190 and the CSXT Railroad was also replaced under the New York Gateway Connections Improvement project. The new structure was built with increased vertical clearance over the railroad and includes a 10-foot wide pedestrian pathway on the south side of the bridge. The new pathway will improve the connectivity between Front and LaSalle Parks. A roundabout was built at the eastern end of the bridge where ramps intersect Porter Avenue. The roundabout has lighting and landscaping consistent with the Olmsted inspired features along Porter Avenue. The bridge and roundabout will fully open on September 19, 2016.
Thruway Authority Acting Executive Director Bill Finch said, “This project’s incorporation of new technology allows traffic to be managed much more efficiently while providing a safer highway environment for motorists. The integration of these systems is part of Governor Cuomo’s Drivers First initiative, which allows drivers real-time access to traffic conditions to help reduce congestion when crossing the international border during peak periods.”
This project will also replace two existing dynamic message signs on Interstate 190 and install two new dynamic message signs on Interstate 190 at the exit ramp to Niagara Street and the Peace Bridge Plaza. Three closed circuit TV cameras will be replaced and a new queue end warning system will be installed to manage traffic more efficiently.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “This project supported by more than $18 million in federal funding continues efforts to improve efficiencies along our international border necessary for the long-term growth of Western New York’s economy while piecing back together a historic Olmsted park. These improvements around the Peace Bridge Plaza will enhance Buffalo’s West Side neighborhood that welcomes international visitors and encourage the flow of goods and people across our border.”
Senator Timothy Kennedy said, “With the opening of this ramp, we’re simplifying the process for drivers crossing the border and offering an accessible option, while also making improvements to increase walkability and pedestrian-friendly opportunities in this neighborhood. I thank Governor Cuomo and the New York State Department of Transportation for their continued commitment to the New York Gateway Connections Improvement Project, and for streamlining access for motorists across Western New York.”
Assemblyman Sean Ryan said, “Today is a great day for the City of Buffalo. We are going to restore one of our great Olmsted parks, and more efficiently move traffic on and off the Peace Bridge plaza. The improved traffic flow will be a significant improvement for the neighborhoods surrounding the Peace Bridge and the restoration of Front Park is a major win for our city. I thank Governor Cuomo and the DOT for making this project, and all Peace Bridge projects, a priority, after so many years of uncertainty and inaction.”
Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz said, “The community around the Peace Bridge will notice improved traffic flow and an aesthetically improved neighborhood with the new ramp on Porter Avenue, which also restores parkland at Front Park. I commend governor Cuomo for his action and vision in moving this project forward.”
Mayor Byron W. Brown said, “Front Park is one of Buffalo’s great green spaces used by thousands of Buffalo residents for many multi-cultural events and festivals. This new ramp opening and the closure of Baird Drive will allow residents and visitors to truly enjoy Front Park as Olmsted envisioned it. This announcement represents great progress for the members of our community. I thank Governor Cuomo for his commitment to the New York State Gateway Connections Improvement Project and to the residents of Buffalo.”
Peace Bridge Authority Chairman Sam Hoyt said, “The Peace Bridge Authority is pleased that Baird Drive will no longer result in conflicting traffic patterns in the U.S. plaza. The elimination of Baird Drive will result in the removal of traffic lights at the intersection of the plaza resulting in less stop and go traffic and less emissions from idling vehicles. It will also result in the ability to reconfigure the U.S. plaza for trucks entering the U.S., reducing congestion both within the plaza and on the Peace Bridge itself.”
Stephanie L. Crockatt, Executive Director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy said, “The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is very appreciative of Governor Cuomo, the NYSDOT, Peace Bridge Authority, and the work of our entire WNY delegation and its citizenry for championing this historic parkland reclamation effort. The removal of Baird Drive at Front Park represents a significant reconnection in the restoration of 1.5 acres of lost historic parkland, and demonstrates a quality of life trend which the Conservancy foresees throughout the City and region.”
Governor Cuomo’s Drivers First initiatives are being employed on this project to ensure that construction causes the least impact to both motorists and Peace Bridge operations. Access to and from the Peace Bridge continues to be maintained at all times during project construction. Work began in November 2014 and project completion is scheduled in 2017.