Report Recommends Redesigning Kensington and Scajaquada Expressways

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Photo credit Kensington Expressway/ Bradley Bethel Jr.

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) Congress for the New Urbanism released a semi-annual report that urges redesigning or replacing Buffalo’s Kensington (Rt. 33) and Scajaquada (Rt. 198) Expressways. This is something the Olmsted Parks Conservancy has been pressing for years.

Freeways Without Futures, profiles urban highway segments recommended for removal or transformation in 10 U.S. cities, including Buffalo.

“Inclusion of the Kensington and Scajaquada Expressways in CNU’s Freeways Without Futures confirms that this is the right time to consider alternative designs for these roadways,” said Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy. “The construction of these expressways divided communities and destroyed acres of parkland in the jewel of Olmsted’s first park system. We look forward to continuing this conversation with New York State officials, the City of Buffalo, the Department of Transportation (DOT), and other local nonprofits and activists to ensure that these roads reconnect and rebuild the communities and greenspaces that all Buffalo residents hold dear.”

Brian Dold serves as the director of planning and advocacy for the conservancy, and he echoed many of the sentiments shared by Crockatt, saying that poorly designed expressways can lead to a decreased quality of life.

“Ever since the announcements that the Kensington Expressway was to be built, dating back to the 1950s and 1960s, our community has sounded the alarm that this highway was destroying our neighborhoods, ruining our health and slashing our property values,” said Stephanie Geter, Chair of ROCC and president of Hamlin Park Community Taxpayers Association. “Sometimes people listened; most of the time they didn’t. But we keep raising our voices to insist that the federal and state departments of transportation do the right thing to correct this travesty.”

A jury of nationally recognized transportation experts chose this year's list from 29 nominated in-city freeways. The panel reviewed each submission based on a number of criteria: The age and state of the highway; the quality of alternative boulevard or street design; the feasibility of removal; community support for removal; existing political momentum; redevelopment opportunities; potential cost savings; and potential to improve access to opportunity for underserved communities.

“Local, state, and federal resources are declining,” says Lynn Richards, president and CEO of CNU. “We need to use investments that meet multiple community goals: Enhancing all kinds of mobility, promoting economic development, creating jobs, and reimagining the possibilities for waterfronts, parks, and neighborhoods.”

“I applaud and thank the Congress for the New Urbanism for recognizing the years of hard work undertaken by ROCC and SCC, who determined long ago that it’s time to replace or redesign the Rt. 198 Scajaquada and Rt. 33 Kensington Expressways. These expressways have long severed and disrupted our communities and recreational spaces, particularly Humboldt Parkway, which connected MLK Jr. Park with Delaware Park, which is the nexus and crown jewel of the Buffalo Olmsted Parks system. We are reaching a tipping point, where eliminating these barriers would be a major step towards reunifying important parts of our city and healing decades- old wounds,” said Assembly Majority Leader Crystal D. Peoples-Stokes, D-Buffalo.

"Across our country, highways built in the name of urban renewal have caused countless impacts on communities," said Assemblyman Sean Ryan, D-Buffalo. "It's well past time for us to rethink these roadways and develop alternatives that will better serve everyone in our community.  I'm proud to support that effort here in Western New York, and look forward to working with everyone involved to find creative solutions that will help continue Buffalo's growth."