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Kensington Expressway logo provided by the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul.
Kensington Expressway logo provided by the Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul.

Advancement of Kensington Expressway project to 'reconnect east Buffalo communities'


Fri, Feb 16th 2024 04:10 pm

FHWA issues ‘finding of no significant impact,’ allowing $1 billion Kensington Expressway project to break ground in 2024

√ Will reconnect east Buffalo neighborhoods and provide new green space

√ State to study additional enhancements to reimagine entire expressway corridor

√ New Kensington Expressway project outreach center now open

√ Watch project video here

Gov. Kathy Hochul announced “a major milestone” in the “transformative” Kensington Expressway Project, which “will reconnect neighborhoods within east Buffalo that have been divided for generations, while providing much-needed green space and a new vibrancy to the entire community.”

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has issued a “finding of no significant impact,” a key development that signals the end of the formal environmental assessment process and clears the way for the New York State Department of Transportation to advance to the final design stages and begin construction by the fall of 2024.

Additionally, at Hochul’s direction, the Department of Transportation will commence a study this year on additional potential enhancements to further reconnect the community, all the way up to the Scajaquada Expressway and Delaware Park, including a new vision for a reimagined Humboldt Parkway.

A press release stated, “Building on the hundreds of public engagements ahead of this project, the state Department of Transportation will continue to engage with community members and listen to their concerns to ensure the best outcome for the corridor and the residents who call it home.”

Hochul said, “From the very beginning, the Kensington Expressway project has been a community-driven effort to restore the green space and quality of life wrongfully taken from east Buffalo with the highway’s initial construction. Today's decision by the Federal Highway Administration allows us to move ahead on this transformational project to right the wrongs of the past and start construction later this year.

“But we are not done yet and will continue to rely on the project’s most important architects – local community members – to share their vision and partner with us as we study opportunities to reconnect the east Buffalo community in a way that makes residents proud.”

The FHWA issuance of a “finding of no significant impact” comes after the state Department of Transportation undertook a detailed Environmental Assessment that extensively studied the social, economic and environmental effects of the project; and outlined measures to mitigate any adverse effects. The New York State Department of Transportation also conducted extensive public outreach on the Kensington Project, attending more than 70 meetings or public events in the affected communities, and “remains committed to engaging the public throughout the final design and construction of the project.”

A new Kensington outreach center, located at 630 Humboldt Parkway, is now officially open in east Buffalo to further opportunities for public engagement as the project moves from the planning phase to the construction phase. Its hours of operation are from 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday.

Issuance of the “finding of no significant impact,” or FONSI, by the FHWA concludes the federal environmental assessment review.

NYS DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “The Kensington Expressway project is one that the east Buffalo community has talked about for decades, and under Gov. Hochul’s leadership, the vision articulated by the residents of east Buffalo, is now a reality. The stars are aligned for this project and there will never be a better opportunity to start transforming the landscape of east Buffalo than at this very moment. This is a major milestone for a game-changing project – one that would not have been possible without continued input and support received from committed local residents and stakeholders in east Buffalo. The construction of the original Kensington Expressway carved a deep wound in the fabric of east Buffalo and now the healing process can officially begin.”

Buffalo Common Council Majority Leader Leah M. Halton-Pope said, “The federal government approval of the Kensington Expressway reconstruction project represents a significant milestone in our ongoing efforts to foster a more inclusive and connected Buffalo. This decision comes as a culmination of tireless advocacy from our residents, particularly those on the east side who formed the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC) to address the longstanding harm caused by the expressway dating back to the early 2000s. Additionally, it's essential to honor the remarkable work and leadership of the late Stephanie Barber-Geter, whose dedication continues to inspire us. I commend Gov. Kathy Hochul, New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, and Sen. Tim Kennedy for their unwavering support and dedication to addressing the concerns of our residents.”

Husband of the late Stephanie Barber-Geter, and chair of the Restore Our Community Coalition, Edwin Geter said, “This is my wife’s lifelong goal as she dedicated her life to correcting this wrong and improving the lives of others in her community. Thank you Gov. Hochul, Majority Leader Peoples-Stokes and all those who are making Stephanie’s goal a reality.”

Hochul’s press release added, “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 cut through the heart of the surrounding neighborhoods in east Buffalo. To right the wrongs of this historical injustice and its long-lasting impact, Gov. Hochul has set aside $1 billion for the project, which includes providing new green space to reconnect the community.”

The Biden-Harris administration also provided $55.59 million for the project through the Reconnecting Communities Pilot Program, an initiative established by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to “reconnect communities that are cut off from opportunity and burdened by past transportation infrastructure decisions.”

Hochul’s team said proposed project highlights include:

√ Replacement of the below-grade expressway with a 4,150-foot-long, six-lane tunnel between Dodge Street and Sidney Street

√ Creation of a 90-foot-wide, tree-lined median on top of the tunnel, providing approximately 11 acres of new, publicly accessible green space

√ Reconstruction of Humboldt Parkway while implementing “Complete Street” roadway design features

√ Rehabilitation of 9 miles of local streets, including resurfacing and replacement of sidewalks, curbs, driveway aprons, lighting, signals and new tree plantings as needed

√ Replacement of Best Street Bridge and creation of a roundabout at the Best Street interchange

The latest information about the project, including frequently asked questions, is available at the project website.

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