Project groundbreaking in east Buffalo expected by late 2024
√ Environmental assessment already underway and will be completed in less than two years
√ New website launched as part of ongoing public engagement process
Gov. Kathy Hochul recently announced an environmental assessment for the Kensington Expressway project is underway and will be completed in early 2024, opening the door for an official groundbreaking by the end of that year. A new website was launched in advance of two public scoping meetings held at the Buffalo Museum of Science on June 30.
"With east Buffalo and all New Yorkers still reeling from the horrific terrorist attack that took place at Tops Supermarket last month, I am laser-focused on uplifting this community now and into the future," Hochul said. "The Kensington Expressway project represents a historic opportunity to right a wrong of the past by reuniting communities, creating jobs and igniting economic growth throughout the region – helping build a brighter future for east Buffalo."
On June 18, the governor visited east Buffalo to announce $50 million in targeted investments as part of the state's ongoing efforts to address the immediate needs of East Buffalo, which she called "a down payment on the much larger amount of work that lies ahead."
A press release noted, “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. With up to $1 billion set aside by Gov. Hochul for this transformational project in east Buffalo, the neighborhood was wrongly divided by the Kensington Expressway's original construction, will once again be reunited.”
NYSDOT is currently assessing opportunities to create new open public spaces, enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety, and address noise and air pollution as part of the environmental process. The DOT 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 Kensington Expressway carries about 80,000 cars per day.
Congressman Brian Higgins said, "The construction of the Kensington Expressway had a detrimental impact on East Buffalo, dividing neighborhoods that were meant to be connected by the Olmsted parkway system. Gov. Hochul's leadership will allow us to right this historic wrong. The environmental assessment and the public engagement process are a significant step forward toward advancing a plan that reunites neighborhoods and addresses the needs of our community."
New York State Sen. Sean Ryan said, "The next few years will see significant progress for the City of Buffalo. After decades of persistent damage to the communities divided by the Kensington and Scajaquada expressways, we are finally taking action to undo what has scarred our landscape and destroyed the vision of Frederick Law Olmsted. I thank Gov. Hochul for her continued commitment to Buffalo and Western New York, and I look forward to future milestones in this project."
New York State Senate Transportation Chair Tim Kennedy said, "When Assembly Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, Congressman Higgins, Buffalo Mayor Brown and I joined members of ROCC to call for a fast-tracked environmental study of the Kensington Expressway, Gov. Kathy Hochul listened. … She and the DOT are delivering on that promise to prioritize this transformational project that will correct injustices that have divided our community for decades. By relying on community feedback to drive this plan forward, and setting a goal for shovels in the ground, we're one step closer to restoring the quality of life in the surrounding neighborhoods."
Assembly Majority Leader Crystal 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. Prioritizing investments in the redesign of Route 33 will significantly help to correct these injustices and would be a significant step towards reunifying neighborhoods in our city and healing decades-old wounds."
Mayor Byron Brown said, "I thank Gov. Hochul and the NY State Department of Transportation for accelerating the process to move the Kensington Expressway redesign forward. This project will allow the City of Buffalo to leverage federal, state and local resources to improve housing and small business development in Buffalo's Black community."
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, "This commitment of funding and resources by Gov. Hochul will continue the process to restore the parkway and reconnect the community. This is a much-needed project that will eventually correct a mistake from the past that split an entire neighborhood in half. The restoration of a scenic parkway will help serve as the basis for future residential and commercial development."