A Parkway not a Freeway

Last week another truck crashed into the train bridge over Onondaga Lake Parkway. It wasn’t the first time, and it won’t be the last. No matter how many flashing warning signs they put up about that being a low bridge, drivers keep using that road, and all those crashes are symptoms of a bigger problem: the Parkway is a freeway where a freeway shouldn’t be.

The part of Onondaga Lake Park that runs along either side of the Parkway is a place where people want to be. There are weddings at the Butterfly Garden, people fishing off the stone bridge, and our history is on display at the Gale Salt Spring, the LeMoyne Well, and the Skä•noñh Center.

Those places are all worse for being right next to a freeway. What’s a wedding like with cars screaming by at 55 mph in the background? It’s amazing that people go to any of those spots the with the Parkway how it is now.

It’s also an issue of access. Syracuse is on Onondaga Lake, but somehow there’s no sane way for a person to get from the City to Onondaga Lake Park without a vehicle. That’s because the one connection between the two places is taken up entirely by a freeway. People should be able to walk or bike from the City to that park, and calling the shoulder of a freeway a ‘bike lane’ isn’t good enough.

There have been plans to fix this problem for a long time. People have talked about eliminating tolls on the Thruway to try and get commuters to use I81 instead, and they’ve talked about moving the Liverpool Post Office to sit in the middle of the Parkway so people don’t think to use the road. Both of those ideas required multiple levels of government to cooperate on a complex solution, and neither of them ever came about.

Why not try something simpler? There are only 2 miles of Parkway where cars are allowed to go 55 mph.

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Those are the only 2 miles of road where drivers go so fast that they need extra wide lanes and a rumble strip to keep them safe from themselves. Reduce the speed limit on those 2 miles of road the 30 mph, and it’d be simple to narrow the lanes (or remove them) and use the extra space for a biking/walking path from the City to the rest of the park.

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Onondaga Lake Park is Onondaga County’s “Central Park.” It’s a symbol of the switch from the destructive economy and mindset of the past to a new appreciation for the environment and a new focus on people’s quality of life. The Parkway is a vestige of that destructive past and mindset–a 4-lane freeway running through the middle of the park, cutting off access for the County’s poorest. A simple change–reducing the speed limit for 2 miles and repainting the lanes–would fix those problems. As an added bonus, it’d keep tractor trailers from running into the train bridge too.