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Reconsidering the Skyway

Bring up the Skyway in any conversation where Buffalo’s armchair urban planners are discussing anything from grain silos to livery stables, and watch the sparks fly. But before you join the mob chanting for its removal—a massive demolition that we’re told will restore the city to its former greatness—you’d be well advised to read “Ribbon of Steel and Concrete”: A cultural Biography of the Buffalo Skyway , which was recently published in the academic journal American Studies.

Author William Graebner, Professor of History Emeritus at SUNY, Fredonia, puts the historic bridge in the context of its time, and in so doing lets us see the “eyesore” in a new light. Rich in detail, and full of interesting photos, Graebner avoids the easy route of treating the Skyway like a political football. He draws no final conclusions, but at the same time presents an interesting dilemma for preservationists and developers alike to consider.

We offer it with the kind permission of American Studies editor David Katzman, the Mid-America American Studies Association and the University of Kansas.

*Please note: Although the essay is in the spring, 2007 issue of American Studies, that issue was published only recently, in May 2008.

  • Instead of an elevated roadway, imagine Buffalo’s Skyway creatively re-engineered and readapted to function as a signature “green” multi-use mega-structure, complete with a multi-use, glass enclosed “green roof” including a pedestrian pathway between downtown and the lakefront. Traffic would be re-routed to a tunnel running from near the Memorial Auditorium site to the Outer Harbor lands.

    Keep in mind that this is one citizen/designer’s answer to the question: How can Buffalo creatively connect the Inner and Outer harbor without spending $100 million to demolish the Skyway? This idea would create up to 1/2 million square feet of multi-use space to the city tax base without taking up to 1 square foot of existing ground area! This plan would not disturb any other existing plans for developing the waterfront as a 19th Century Canal Era Showplace but would showcase Buffalo as a city with a vision for the 21st century. This could be Buffalo’s Signature landmark structure!

    You can view this visionary proposal complete with aerial map, illustrations, facts and opinions regarding this Skyway concept and the arguments for demolishing it. There is also a sideshow highlighting the main ideas and advantages for keeping and re-inventing the Skyway. Don’t overlook the 31 related videos(from music videos to serious political and social commentaries on the environment and the global imperative of utilizing green and sustainable design.

    Skyway to the Future: website: