Let’s Get it Moving (We’re Talking Traffic Here)


By Councilman Kenny Tompkins

We have a traffic problem here in Niagara Falls near the Niagara Reservation Park. Guess what? This is a good thing. It means people are hearing about Niagara Falls. At the same time, we all know how frustrating it is to sit for hours in standstill traffic, like some visitors experienced on July 4 as they headed into our downtown from the I-190.

Gridlock does not leave a positive image of our city on people who have traveled sometimes hundreds of miles to enjoy the natural beauty of our cataracts. It hurts our chances of getting them to return in the future. Anyone in tourism can tell you repeat business and excellent word-of-mouth drive visitor numbers up faster than any ad can do.

Now, Governor Cuomo has made a generous offer to throw $300K into a study on our traffic patterns. While it’s great that he recognizes this is problem, what we really need is help with stop-gap measures so that this summer’s visitors can enter the city with greater ease from Grand Island.

Here are few suggestions that could alleviate our problem today while the state investigates a long-term solution:

1) Not every tourist needs to be routed down the Niagara Scenic Parkway that runs parallel to Buffalo Avenue. Why not put up temporary flashing signs that point to alternate routes such as down Pine Avenue (Route 62) or up to Route 31 where they can circle back into the downtown area and shutdown the parkway when it reaches capacity? This would both help ease congestion and add traffic to our business districts.

2) Perhaps if we had more State Park Police to help keep the traffic moving smoothly once people enter into the city, it would lessen the burden on our city police force so that they can be available to assist in other areas.

3) One of the smartest quotes at the July 17 Tourism Advisory Board meeting was “You don’t park at the front gate of Disney.” We should explore shutting down Prospect Street and 1st Street, as both are very narrow streets for the volume of traffic they receive. This issue is magnified on holidays and weekends as witnessed on July 4. Instead of bringing every car into the park, create “park and ride” lots akin to what they have on the Canadian side. Have a shuttle that goes to these lots and brings visitors to the attractions.

These are just three simple suggestions to explore that can have an immediate impact on this traffic problem. While a long-term study might yield a permanent fix to this situation, we need to do something now. Tourism season is too short. When visitors become discouraged from visiting because of long waits to get into town, it can hurt our business and the city’s image both today and in the future. Let’s be proactive with simple solutions like these today, until the final recommendations come forward. Our city’s vitality for this summer depends on this.

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