NYS Route 5 and the Buffalo Skyway is a four-lane limited access expressway that extends four miles along the City’s Lake Erie waterfront, dividing the City of Buffalo and its neighborhoods from the open space and shores of Lake Erie. The highway carries almost 40,000 trips per day of commuter traffic as part of the regional highway system. Completed in 1955, the route was originally designed to connect truck traffic from multiple large and small factory complexes and the Port of Buffalo to the then-fledgling interstate highway system. Today, the highway is primarily a commuter corridor that acts as a major barrier to the Buffalo waterfront and its emerging revitalization.
The “Aim for the Sky: Buffalo Skyway Corridor Competition” was conceived by New York State as an opportunity to reimagine the corridor, and to define a clear vision for the City of Buffalo’s waterfront. The concept would help inform the direction for investment in placemaking and economic development. More than 100 proposals from local, national, and international teams were submitted – including the proposal by Fisher’s team , which included SWBR Architects, Fisher, and The MRB Group. After being judged by a nationally expert panel of jurors, the proposal was announced as the winning submission and referred to NYS DOT as an alternative to emulate in their subsequent design analysis.
The design called for removal of the Skyway Bridge (Church Street to Prime Street) along with its access ramps, making 12 acres available for development in downtown Buffalo and Canalside. A portion of the Bridge structure over the Buffalo River would remain and be re-purposed as a “Skyway Park,” a multi-use trail, and a sculptural element. South of the bridge, the Skyway’s elevated expressway section would be removed, and the land redeveloped for mixed-use neighborhoods. A grid of complete streets were recommended to re-connect neighborhoods to Lake Erie and to offer travelers optional routes to travel to a wide variety of destinations.