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Start of public engagement process for Kensington Expressway


Mon, Jun 13th 2022 05:30 pm

Informational scoping sessions to be held June 30 at Buffalo Museum of Science

√ Opportunity for community members to provide feedback and help determine project's preferred alternative

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday announced a “major step forward” in the transformative Kensington Expressway project in the City of Buffalo. The State Department of Transportation is launching its formal engagement process and will host two public scoping sessions for the project on Thursday, June 30, at the Buffalo Museum of Science. The scoping sessions – from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and from 5-8 p.m. – will provide community members with an opportunity to learn about the various options being considered for the project, and to provide feedback to DOT officials. The input received at these sessions and other public involvement opportunities to be held during the environmental review will help inform the decision-making process for the project.

“The Kensington Expressway project represents a historic opportunity to reshape the City of Buffalo and reconnect communities that were severely impacted by the highway's construction more than a half century ago," Hochul said. "My administration is committed to delivering on bold infrastructure projects that will help right the wrongs of the past through transportation networks designed to bring communities together, and routes that are friendlier for pedestrians and bikers. It's critical that the community has a voice in how this project proceeds, and these scoping sessions will help us inform members of the public about all the options being considered and allow us to listen to their feedback. I encourage anyone who's interested in this historic project to attend."

The DOT will consider the comments received at the scoping sessions and during the subsequent 30-day scoping comment period, and respond to substantive comments in the project scoping report to be completed later this summer. A new website on the Kensington Expressway Project will be officially launched on June 29, prior to the meetings, providing another forum for the public to learn about the project.

Hochul’s team said, “Constructed during the 1950s and 1960s, the Kensington Expressway replaced what had been a grand, tree-lined boulevard – the historic Humboldt Parkway designed by Frederick Law Olmsted – with a below-grade highway that severed the connection between the surrounding neighborhoods. The original boulevard connected Humboldt Park (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Park) with Delaware Park.”

A $32.8 billion, five-year DOT capital plan was adopted as part of the state's fiscal year 2023 budget. Hochul’s team said it includes “up to $1 billion to reconnect the east-west neighborhoods across the depressed section of the Kensington Expressway corridor and reestablish the green space originally provided by Humboldt Parkway without compromising the long-term capacity of the important regional transportation link provided by the expressway.”

In January, Hochul announced the DOT will commence an environmental review to assess alternatives for reconnecting and restoring the east-west neighborhoods that were divided by the construction of the expressway.

The DOT is currently assessing opportunities to create new open public spaces, enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety, and address noise and air pollution. It is also assessing enhancements to the local roadways to facilitate safe vehicle operations within reconnected neighborhoods. Project boundaries include the eastern limit of East Ferry Street and western limit at Best Street. The expressway carries about 80,000 cars per day.

The Buffalo Museum of Science is located at 1020 Humboldt Parkway. Each of the two scoping sessions will feature informational panels on the various options being considered for the project. Both sessions will provide the same information. Project leaders from the DOT will be on hand to answer questions and receive feedback from members of the community.

NYSDOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "Under Gov. Hochul's leadership, New York state is making historic commitments to build back our infrastructure in ways that reconnect our communities, facilitate growth and bring people together. The Kensington Expressway is a relic of mid-20th-century transportation planning that divided neighborhoods, and the time has come to do something about it. I urge all community members to attend one of the sessions and help us ensure that the final project is something that makes all New Yorkers proud." 

U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins said, "Transportation mistakes of the past devastated Buffalo neighborhoods and divided communities. Under the leadership of Gov. Hochul and the Western New York delegation, this project will right that wrong. We are eager to start the public listening process to advance a project that meets the needs of neighbors and advances the vision of a stronger, heathier and connected community."

New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "With an expedited environmental process of the Kensington Expressway secured, and a historic $1 billion investment included in this year's budget, we're closer than ever to seeing this project advance and transform a neighborhood that has been overlooked for decades. Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes and I have been proud to collaborate with groups like the Restore Our Community Coalition in order to support their vision for change and deliver on our promise to do better on behalf of our community. The community's voice will play a prominent role in what this project will look like, and we're eager to hear from the people in these neighborhoods who have been directly impacted by this roadway for years. These scoping sessions will be a critical component of the next phase of this project."

New York State Sen. Sean Ryan said, "Buffalo is not alone in the effort to fix the damage caused by highways that divide communities. With planning efforts underway for the redesign of the Scajaquada Expressway and the Kensington Expressway, we are taking a bold step forward to reunite neighborhoods, restore the Olmsted vision, and reclaim our history. As this public outreach effort begins, I encourage everyone to stay involved and make your voice heard."

Peoples-Stokes said, "Redesigning and covering Route 33 is a unique opportunity to address the generational harm done by the Kensington Expressway, when it tore into the Martin Luther King and Hamlin Park neighborhoods. These expressways have long severed and disrupted our communities and recreational spaces. Restoring these communities is a matter of racial justice, quality of life, environmental health, and community development. Equally important to the redevelopment process is properly implementing the public engagement piece to give community members the opportunity and equitable path to learn about the project and provide critical feedback."

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "All voices and ideas are welcome, and I encourage residents to plan to attend these sessions and see what the future might hold for the Kensington Expressway. This is a transformational and generational project that will reunite one of Buffalo's oldest neighborhoods, so the more people who can attend, the better. See what the options are, join the community discussion, and play your part in creating a new, better Buffalo."

Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, "Securing funding to right the wrongs of one of the biggest planning mistakes in our history has been a community effort from the very beginning. It is critically important that the community remains engaged in this project. I encourage all residents of this neighborhood to come and learn about the construction process, as well as offer ideas about how this investment can benefit the homes and businesses in the community surrounding the Kensington Expressway."

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