Niagara Falls is one of the seven wonders of the world and the area surrounding Niagara Falls has seen some dramatic shifts in transportation. The 1840’s experienced the arrival of two steam powered trains that ran between the cities of Niagara Falls and Buffalo, New York. With the trains came the rise of business development along the Niagara River gorge taking advantage of waterpower. In 1885, NY Governor Grover Cleveland convinced state representatives to buy the property surrounding Niagara Falls to create a state park. This led to the creation of the Niagara Falls State Park which was over 400 acres and had 800 visitors annually. Currently, eight to nine million people visit the park each year.
In 1962, construction of the Robert Moses Parkway (RMP) began connecting the City of Niagara Falls to Lewiston, New York. The project was led by Robert Moses whose career in the public sector began building parkways and transportation corridors in New York City. The RMP was 14 miles long when it was completed. It was designed with two lanes in each direction separated by a wide median and included similar features of an expressway or freeway. The RMP was constructed between the Niagara River gorge and the community.
In the 2000’s, there was a greater demand for recreational opportunities in Niagara State Park including pathways and trails for pedestrians and bicycles. The RMP was renamed the Niagara Scenic Parkway. Some 2.2 miles of the north section’s southbound lanes were closed to vehicular traffic and opened to pedestrians and bicycles. The northbound lanes were re-striped to carry one lane of vehicular traffic in each direction.
In 2018, a project was initiated to remove barriers and improve access to the Niagara River gorge and to restore the landscape and ecology with native-based greenspace and recreational trails in support of public enjoyment of the new park space. The project was a joint effort of six cooperating agencies.
The project was constructed in three separate phases. The first phase was the reconstruction of Whirlpool Street which paralleled the RMP in this 2.2-mile section. Whirlpool Street was reconstructed as a complete street meeting the needs of multi-modes of traffic and reconnecting the community to the park. The second phase included the removal of two bridges: a vehicular overpass bridge at the Whirlpool Plaza and a pedestrian bridge over the RMP that connected two tourist destinations. The third phase removed the RMP and restored parkland.
The podium talk will demonstrate the transformation through the three phases of construction. It will also describe the recreational trail system used and four types of greenspaces restored in the park.