Dear Editor: Re: Two Abandoned Resources: A Road to No-Where, and An Expressway that Never Was
A Road to No-Where
In 1944 there was a proposal to create a Lake Ontario State Parkway. It was to be part of the Seaway Trail project. The parkway was to extend from Charlotte Beach in Rochester, through Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara Counties and end at Niagara Falls. When the Robert Moses State Parkway was proposed, the western terminus was moved north to Fort Niagara.
The construction of the Lake Ontario State Parkway began in the late 1940s, with the first section opening in the early 1950s, linking the Hamlin Beach State Park to NY 261 (Manitou Road). The section through Greece to Charlotte was built in stages during the 1950s and 1960s. The portion between Hamlin Beach state park and Lakeside Beach State Park was planned in the ’60s and finished in 1972. Officially opening February 16, 1973. (1)
There was a US Supreme Court ruling in 1964, that caused Counties to lose their representation in the Assembly. That ruling began to take a toll fairly quickly. With the NYS Legislature putting its focus on the seven counties downstate, the parkway was abandoned, half-finished. Little focus was ever again placed on the Lake Ontario State Parkway, at least not for the next 56 years.
It wasn’t until the Lake Ontario Parkway began to be an eyesore and embarrassment, and even a safety hazard, that the state made any effort to make repairs. The parkway was in such disrepair that drivers had to slow to 35-40 MPH, slower in some places, or risk serious damage to their vehicles. Many users preferred driving on the shoulder rather than over the broken parkway pavement. In 2017, the parkway from Route 19 east to Payne Beach was repaved (approximately 8 miles). In 2018, seven miles from Route 19 to Route 237 were repaved, but the shoulders in this stretch narrowed from 12 to 8 feet. (2)
As of today, about 12 miles of the western end of the parkway is in poor condition. The only consideration actually keeping that stretch open is that it is treated as a sessional highway and is viewed as a historical landmark(3). With serious deterioration, lack of state funding, failure to complete the parkway to Fort Niagara, and no plans on the books, the Lake Ontario Parkway has become a highway to nowhere
Our current Assemblyman, after 14 years in office, has done little to resurrect the seaway/parkway project as a resource for Orleans county.
An Expressway that Never Was
There was a limited access, toll-free, interstate highway planned, and started that would have run from Rochester to Buffalo and serviced the towns in western Monroe, Orleans, and Niagara counties, including Spencerport, Brockport, Holley, Albion, Medina, Middleport, Gasport, Lockport, and Niagara Falls.
The initial stretch, from Interstate 490 to Elmgrove Road, was completed in the early 1960s. The stretch to Manitou Road was completed in 1984, and the stretch to Route 36, now referred to as Interstate 531, was completed in 1995. The latter stretch was the combined effort of the many Monroe County Assembly members and NYS Senator Ralph Quattrociocchi.
There was federal interest in Interstate 531, and the project was included in the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1968. Unfortunately, when the City of Niagara Falls released its Regional Highway Plan for the Buffalo–Niagara Falls area in 1971, that plan did not contain mention of the Niagara Falls to Rochester expressway. With the Assembly Districts now not being organized around county lines, no Assemblyman stood up for the needs of Orleans County or the western towns of Monroe County, and thus the proposed Niagara Falls–Rochester freeway (4) was abandoned.
In the period from 2012 to 2016, the NYS Department of Transportation held public hearings on the redesign of the 531 termini at the intersection at Route 36. During these discussions, our representative for the 139th Assembly appears to have been absent. Consequently, there was no consideration of the impact of the DoT’s proposal on the long-term growth or needs of western Monroe County or Orleans County. The $12 million spent terminating 531 provides little benefit for the development of western Monroe county and no benefit to Orleans county. It just moved the traffic jam further down the road.
The loss of these two roadways as resources for the 139th Assembly District will negatively impact western Monroe County and Orleans County for some time. The current loss of County representation in the NYS Assembly, and the failure of the incumbent Assemblyman to represent the needs of the western Monroe County towns and Orleans county, combined with the lack of a county focus in the NYS Assembly itself, is to blame (5).
Getting these two major resources back on the drawing board will be one of the tasks I will work on during my first term in office. But more importantly, the focus of the NYS Legislature has turned south, and it has remained that way for over 56 years. Restoring county representation in the Assembly will be my initial goal.
This year, make your vote make a statement. Vote Libertarian.
Vote for Mark Glogowski,139th Assembly District.