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Hochul announces city street enhancements as part of Kensington Expressway project in Buffalo


Tue, Jun 20th 2023 11:00 am

Says enhancements will occur on potential local detour routes

√ Announcement comes in advance of June 20 public meetings as part of ongoing public engagement process

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced that, as part of the Kensington Expressway project, the New York State Department of Transportation, in coordination with the Federal Highway Administration, is planning to make improvements to approximately nine miles of local street whiles enhancing accommodations for pedestrians in the immediate vicinity of the project.

Hochul’s team said, “Repaved roads, upgraded sidewalks and other improvements will be made to streets on both sides of the expressway as part of project's goal of reconnecting neighborhoods and strengthening local communities that were ripped apart by the highway's construction.”

The announcement was made in advance of public meetings that are taking place at the Buffalo Museum of Science from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. today to provide an update to the community on the progress of the project as the Environmental Assessment process continues.

"The Kensington Expressway project is an unprecedented opportunity to right the wrongs of the past that divided the residents of east Buffalo and robbed them of vital spaces in their community," Hochul said. "This project will allow us to not only bring these communities together, but also give them the infrastructure that will help build a brighter future for east Buffalo. Residents will have a more livable, walkable and better-connected community thanks to this generational project."

A press release stated, “Plans now being developed call for local streets inside the project limits to be milled and overlayed with new asphalt. Sidewalks, ramps and driveway aprons will be replaced and upgraded as needed to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and enhance mobility and safety for pedestrians. Street lighting and traffic signals will also be upgraded as needed. New grass and trees may also be included. The boundaries of this work will be between Wohlers Avenue and Fillmore Avenue from Genesee Street/High Street on the South to Northland Street on the north.

“Along with the addition of the street enhancements and improved pedestrian accommodations, other changes include adding a roundabout option that widens Best Street in addition to the previously discussed traffic signal intersection.”

Hochul's $32.8 billion five-year Department of Transportation capital plan that was adopted as part of the state's fiscal year 2023 budget includes funding to reconnect the east-west neighborhoods across the depressed section of the Kensington Expressway corridor in east Buffalo 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,” he team said.

In December 2022, DOT, in cooperation with the Federal Highway Administration, completed the scoping report for the Kensington Expressway project, which identified the build alternative to be advanced for further study in the environmental process.

Hochul’s team said, “The build alternative includes the replacement of the below-grade expressway with a six-lane tunnel between Dodge Street and Sidney Street, and improved community connections. The environmental review is ongoing, while DOT is assessing opportunities to create new open public spaces and enhance bicycle and pedestrian safety. The Kensington Expressway carries about 80,000 vehicles per day.

“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 project in east Buffalo, the neighborhoods that were wrongly divided by the Kensington Expressway's original construction will once again be reunited.”

New York State Department of Transportation Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, "Gov. Hochul's focus on investing in people and reconnecting communities across New York is directly reflected in this project. As such, the Department of Transportation is working with the community – listening and making adjustments to this project as needed, and developing new proposals that will both enhance safety and the quality of life for the citizens of east Buffalo. The Kensington Expressway's original construction sliced a hole through the heart of east Buffalo. This project will help fill that hole, while healing the wounds that the construction of the expressway brought to residents of both sides of the 33.”

Hochul’s team said, “In total, the Department of Transportation's capital plan includes nearly $3 billion for infrastructure projects that promote equity, connectivity, and multimodal transportation opportunities for communities all across New York state. In addition to the Kensington Expressway project in east Buffalo, these projects include the reconstruction of the Bruckner-Sheridan interchange at Hunts Point in the Bronx, converting the existing Inner Loop Freeway into a community boulevard in Rochester, the I-81 Viaduct Project in Syracuse, and covering portions of the Cross-Bronx Expressway in the Bronx.”

Also, earlier this year, it was announced a $55.59 million Capital Construction Grant was awarded to the Kensington Expressway project through the U.S. Department of Transportation's Reconnecting Communities Program. The program, established by President Joe Biden's “Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” is an initiative to “reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.” The Kensington Expressway project is one of 45 projects receiving a historic $185 million in grant awards.

Hochul’s team said, “The Department of Transportation will continue its public outreach efforts as the environmental assessment process progresses, and expects to release a draft environmental assessment for public review in the summer of 2023. A public hearing on the assessment is planned for fall 2023.”

Congressman Brian Higgins said, "As we work to reconnect a community, we must look beyond a divided highway and find ways to bring the lasting change people deserve. This approach enhances walkability, safety and landscaping across an area that stretches over one square mile around the Kensington. Thanks to federal and state funding along with a strong commitment by Gov. Hochul, Sen. Kennedy and Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes, we are delivering a transformation that reaches into the neighborhoods."

New York State Sen. Tim Kennedy said, "Expanding the scope of this historic project to reimagine the Kensington Expressway by including surrounding communities will improve the quality of life for even more residents of Buffalo's east Side. I look forward to hearing thoughts from neighbors at the upcoming forums, and I am confident that their input and feedback will continue to guide the decision-making by NYS DOT. Thank you to the community members, including the Restore Our Community Coalition, for their commitment and dedication to this important process."

Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, "These announced neighborhood infrastructure improvements are a very welcome surprise and addition to the project. Increased public safety, accessibility, and beautification will further enhance neighborhood residents' quality of life. Thank you to NYS DOT for its creativity and ability to expand project benefits into the surrounding neighborhoods."

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