The Skyway has been standing for more than six decades, but the push continues to explore a possibility of a Buffalo without the bridge, at least in its current form.

  • Gov. Cuomo's "Aim for the Sky" competition is seeking ideas for alternatives to the Skyway
  • The proposals for the national contest must be submitted by 3 p.m. Friday
  • Panelists from backgrounds of urban planning, design, transportation, etc. who will judge the competition toured the Skyway corridor

"How can you reconnect the downtown with the waterfront? How can the state and the City of Buffalo invest in transportation infrastructure?" asked Lynn Richards, one of the panelists.

Richards is the president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism in Washington, D.C. She's one of 10 panelists judging Gov. Cuomo's "Aim for the Sky" competition, a national search for new ideas and design visions for the Skyway corridor. The panelists come from backgrounds like urban planning, design and transportation. Several of them came to Buffalo from across the country and took a tour to check out the area for themselves.

"You see Canalside, which is totally expanding. You see downtown right here, and then this is a visual barrier," Richards said while standing underneath the Skyway near Canalside.

For years, Rep. Brian Higgins has been calling for the Skyway to come down. He says the existing bridge has long outlived its usefulness from the city’s industrial past.

"In the new Buffalo, in the new Buffalo waterfront, you have canoes and kayaks and recreational boating. That will influence the design of a new structure to replace the Skyway," Higgins said.

More than 40,000 cars use the stretch of Route 5 every day. So where would all that traffic go to and from the Southtowns? The current Skyway renovations have created major detours, giving a glimpse at how it might work.

"We need to utilize streets that are quiet today: South Park Avenue, Seneca Street, Broadway, Genesee, Clinton," Higgins said.

State Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, chairs the Senate Transportation Committee, and sees now as the time to replace the Skyway with something new.

"We need to open up downtown access; a series of bridges and a series of accessible pedestrian walkways," Kennedy said.

As the area around Canalside — much of which sits under the roadway — continues to develop, it will likely be a key component of any plan for the Skyway.

"We do know that there's a plan for Canalside to do more physical building. That's part of the future, said John Maggiore, senior adviser to Gov. Cuomo. "You know that with [the Skyway] here, there are limits to what can be built."

And that's the goal of the Skyway competition — to go beyond the limits of what's stood as a fixture for more than half a century.

"There's great potential to transform the Skyway into something that helps to facilitate the more place-making and community development outcomes that the city and state want," Richards said.

Ideas for the competition are due by 3 p.m. Friday. Winners will be picked in September, with a top prize of $100,000. However, there will likely be many years of discussion and environmental studies before any major changes happen.