Transportation investment crucial for Riverbend’s success

The Riverbend development, at the former Republic Steel site in South Buffalo, is a transformative project for Buffalo and Western New York.

SolarCity has committed to investing $5 billion over the next decade on a solar panel manufacturing facility expected to generate 3,000 jobs. New York State has also committed $750 million to the project.

In anticipation of this major project, and the significant infrastructure resources it will require, the Partnership engaged in a broader investigation into planned and potential growth in the areas surrounding Riverbend.

We conducted the Riverbend Area Infrastructure Needs Assessment (RAINA), a direct engagement with neighboring businesses and developers, to determine the amount of expected growth over the next five years.

riverbend mapOur survey showed more than six million square feet of planned development in the near future, representing a 191 percent overall growth for the area.

However, the influx of new employees and commercial traffic will put more strain upon the aging and limited transportation infrastructure in the area.

The area around Riverbend contains active industrial and residential areas, further complicating concerns.

Considering this area hasn’t seen this much vehicle movement since the days of Republic Steel, it is necessary to consider a holistic future for transportation infrastructure needs.

In order to facilitate the smooth movement of people and commerce around the area, as well as prepare to accommodate future growth, the roadway infrastructure around Riverbend will need to be improved and upgraded.

However, transportation funding from the state and federal government is often times an issue. Infrastructure has been neglected in not only WNY, but statewide.

Just 53 percent of roads in the Buffalo area were rated as good in a March 2015 study conducted by transportation research group, TRIP. TRIP also found 32 percent of roads in the region were either in mediocre or poor condition.

TRIP estimates these poor road conditions cost Buffalo drivers an additional $294 a year in maintenance costs.

Public transportation can provide a solution to potential traffic issues by providing reliable and accessible bus routes around the Riverbend area, which lies outside of the current Metro-Rail footprint.

However, Albany has failed to adequately fund the NFTA in recent years.

april 23 blog photo of carsIn 2014, the NFTA received $3.34 per rider mile in state support, while systems in Rochester and Syracuse received $4.50 and $5.76 per rider mile respectively.

The needs of the riders, as well as pedestrians and bicyclists, should be considered in order to create safe and modern complete streets.

Given the many infrastructure needs of WNY, the region needs to be proactive in ensuring the Riverbend area obtains the necessary upgrades and maintenance.

A holistic approach that factors in passenger, freight and public transportation should be considered to address the unique needs of the various constituencies accessing the Riverbend area.