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Following advancement of Kensington Expressway project, Hochul unveils details of phase 2 study to begin this year


Thu, Mar 28th 2024 07:00 pm

Future efforts to further reconnect neighborhoods along Kensington Expressway will examine options for reimagined Scajaquada Expressway in Buffalo

√ State to include work completed by Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council

Following federal approval for the Kensington Expressway project to move forward, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced an upcoming study for a phase two on potential future enhancements along the Kensington Expressway corridor in east Buffalo will also examine options for a reimagined Scajaquada Expressway in Buffalo.

The State Department of Transportation will begin work on the study later this year, assessing the traffic and environmental effects of any potential changes to both highways. The study will also include an analysis of the work advanced by the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC) for the Scajaquada Expressway corridor, also known as State Route 198.

Hochul first announced the study in February “to ensure that the historic progress being made to reconnect the neighborhoods of east Buffalo advances beyond the current scope of the Kensington Expressway project, which will begin construction this fall.”

She said, “From the beginning, the Kensington Expressway project has been about righting the wrongs of the past, and after decades of talk and indecision, we are finally delivering the results this community deserves. By commencing a study for a second phase, we are committed to exploring new ways to reconnect the community along the Kensington and advancing a greater vision that includes the linked Scajaquada Expressway corridor, enhancing it for residents, visitors and motorists.”

In February, Hochul directed the state Department of Transportation to commence a study on additional potential enhancements along the Kensington Expressway corridor, all the way up to the Scajaquada Expressway and Delaware Park, including a new vision for a reimagined Humboldt Parkway. That study will now also include an evaluation of the concepts produced by the GBNRTC in January of 2023 for a reimagined Scajaquada Expressway.

Hochul’s team said, the GBNRTC’s report, which was funded by the NYS DOT, was “the result of a collaborative planning process that began in 2019, evaluating several possible scenarios and articulating a preferred option that calls for the reconfiguration of the Scajaquada Expressway into a two-lane, at-grade roadway that removes all existing ramps to and from the expressway, creating a new parkway extending from Niagara Street to East Delavan Avenue.”

As part of its study, the NYS DOT will conduct a detailed traffic analysis and identify effects on the surrounding road network and potential mitigation measures. Economic and environmental effects, including air quality and noise, will also be studied.

Hochul’s team noted, “The state DOT will continue to engage with community members and listen to their concerns to ensure the best outcome for corridor users and the residents who call it home. The state Department of Transportation will lead the study, which is expected to begin later this year and be completed by the end of 2027, in coordination with GBNRTC.”

NYS DOT Commissioner Marie Therese Dominguez said, “Gov. Hochul’s vision is literally rewriting the history books of the long and complicated saga of the Kensington Expressway for the better. The state Department of Transportation is working day and night to ensure we are ready for a shovel in the ground this fall on the Kensington Expressway project, but our work is far from over. This new planning study will help us chart a path forward, and it is important that the future of the Scajaquada Expressway be included in this process.”

State Sen. Sean Ryan said, “The people of Buffalo deserve world-class projects to reconnect communities and correct historic injustices. I am encouraged by the acknowledgement that the current plans for the 33 are just the beginning of a multi-step process, and that more work must be done to remove the highways that divide our historic Olmsted parks and hold back the future of Buffalo neighborhoods. Additionally, we need to see more progress on the 198 following the great work done by the GBNRTC, which outlined a truly exciting vision for the Scajaquada Corridor. Buffalo has waited generations to fix the problems caused by the 198 and the 33, and we need to move as fast as possible to commence projects that will actually realize the goals that the people of Buffalo have put forward.”

City of Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said, “Ensuring a greener quality of life for residents in the City of Buffalo is important and is a priority for my administration.”

Executive Director Michael Finn said, “Advancing GBNRTC’s region central planning effort for the Scajaquada Corridor to the next phases in concert with further planning of the Kensington Corridor will amplify the benefits of both projects for the entire community. We are excited about the next stages of planning, which will lay the groundwork for community-led advancements that will last for many generations.”

The study will proceed as work progresses on the Kensington Expressway project. In February Hochul announced the Federal Highway Administration issued a “finding of no significant impact,” which signaled the end of the formal environmental assessment process and cleared the way for the DOT to advance to the final design stages and begin construction by the fall.

As part of these efforts, plans are in place for the DOT to let a contract this summer for work along Best Street, which will enable the project to begin in the fall. Coordination will also begin in the coming weeks with the City of Buffalo and utility companies to ensure that utility agreements are in place before construction officially begins.

Hochul’s team explained, “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.”

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 greenspace

√ 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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