All posts by Thea Hassan

The Scajaquada, a Freeway without a Future

The Congress for the New Urbanism recently published their Freeways Without Futures 2017 report, listing ten highways throughout the country that are in urgent need of removal due to their negative impacts on the surrounding areas. Number one of the list? The Scajaquada Expressway.

The organization notes,

“These ten highways are opportunities for progress. Each one presents the chance to remove a blight from the physical, economic, and environmental health of urban communities. Their intended benefits have not justified the tragic consequences, but converting these highways into human-scaled streets offers a chance to begin repairing the damage. From Buffalo to San Francisco, these are the freeways without futures.”

For a full outline of the top ten highways in America that have no future, visit this article.

We 100% agree the removal of the Scajaquada Expressway is an opportunity for progress in our city. We also understand suburban commuters may have concerns about how the downgrading may affect their commute, addressed below.

Myth #1: Removing an Urban Freeway Will Make Your Commute Longer

Fact: Numerous examples show that this is not the case. In fact, freeways are inefficient mechanisms for handling traffic. In most cases, surface streets (the urban grid) can carry the same amount or more traffic than the highway because there are many chances to enter and exit, and thus many possible routes. Freeways are a magnet for traffic; rather than alleviating traffic congestion, freeways concentrate it, leading to massive traffic jams on and near them, and under-use of existing infrastructure elsewhere. Typically, arterial roads near freeways function well below capacity, which can in fact damage the prospects of businesses located along them. In no example of an American freeway removal have travel times increased significantly. In fact, because of more efficient use of the urban grid, some trips may get faster!

Myth #2: Removing a Freeway Will Damage the City and Regional Economy

Fact: The economic benefits of freeway removal are in fact vast and far outweigh any possible negatives. A strong center city is the best indicator of an economically healthy region. Freeway removal is a correction of a mid-century paradigm that saw cities as little more than convenient parking lots for commuters. Removing freeways restores the urban fabric, unlocking hundreds of millions of dollars of land value, and bringing significant additional tax revenue to city coffers. And that doesn’t even count the traffic safety and air pollution benefits that accrue when communities remove a freeway.

Myth #3: New Freeway Capacity Could Reduce Existing Congestion

Fact: New freeway capacity tends to fill up almost as soon as it is built. This is a well-established principle that is known as “triple convergence” (in time, location, and route choice) or “induced demand.” Building new freeway capacity will not reduce a city’s problems with congestion. We need a new approach that emphasizes multimodalism—walking, transit, biking, and giving people options besides driving alone—and that best utilizes existing infrastructure.

Myth #4: Freeways are Fiscally Efficient and the Alternatives are Not

Fact: Many freeways carry far fewer cars than they were designed for, and all freeways, especially those that are built on a viaduct or in a trench in an urban area, are massively expensive to maintain. No road in the United States pays for itself, and with the gas tax not being raised since 1993, there is no sign that they will any time soon. Many urban freeways were built in an era when engineers believed traffic would increase forever, a world which we now realize is both undesirable and not around the corner. Thus many freeways, in midsize cities especially, have massive unused capacity which would be wasteful even if the area experienced rapid growth.

Proposed Plan for Scajaquada Transformation Does Not Achieve Community’s Vision

 

The New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) has announced the next public hearing to solicit public feedback for their plan to transform the Scajaquada Expressway into a Boulevard on December 14, 2016, at the Fredrick Law Olmsted Public School 64 auditorium (874 Amherst Street) beginning at 5:30 pm. The project is currently scheduled to allow construction to begin in fall 2017.

Based on our initial review, the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition (SCC), which represents multiple stakeholders, including the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, the Parkside Community Association, and GObike Buffalo, as well as community groups and thousands of individuals, opposes the current project design because it fails to meet the aspirational vision laid out by Governor Cuomo and supported by the community since this process began in 2001.

As we have seen in the City of Buffalo as well as cities across the state and country, communities desire Complete Streets. Through complete streets, we are developing multi-modal networks that provide safe access to jobs, education, health care and other essential services for all roadway users. This makes walking, biking and public transit viable transportation choices for everyone while contributing to the health, equity, economic vibrancy and quality of life in our city.

These objectives have not been met in NYSDOT’s current plan; instead, their proposed design continues to perpetuate the challenges of a limited access expressway with a 30MPH speed limit. The SCC vehemently opposes the current boulevard design due to:

  • The lack of a meaningful and engaging public input process while NYSDOT ignores multiple submissions by community organizations with constructive recommendations;
  • Prioritization of vehicle traffic over the safety of vulnerable users through:
    • Over-sized intersections that will make crossings unsafe for pedestrians and bicyclists;
    • Medians throughout the corridor at the expense of park space and on-street bicycle facilities; and
    • Adverse impacts upon the Historic Olmsted Park and Parkway System as well as the surrounding cultural and educational institutions and business districts; and
  • The plan’s limited scope, including the absence of addressing impacted communities west of Grant Street and east of Parkside Avenue.

As the New Buffalo continues to re-invent itself becoming a great city once again, NYSDOT is stuck in the Robert Moses-era of planning mistakes by focusing singularly on moving vehicles through our community. At no additional cost, the community’s Scajaquada Boulevard vision could cement our city’s renaissance if vehicle traffic is not the sole consideration of its design; instead, people are.

Saving Scajaquada Creek Event

PrintIt has never been more important to stand up for our local waterways. We need your help to protect water in Western New York!  I hope you will join us for this year’s celebration: Our Waters, Our Future –  Saving Scajaquada Creek. We need your support for all of our waters, and most urgently, for our active efforts to clean up this important waterway. Scajaquada Creek has endured over one hundred years of abuse, yet still clings to life and has great potential for restoration. Help us make it happen!

On Thursday September 1st from 6-9PM, please join us for a special celebration at Marcy Casino in Delaware Park. All fundraiser attendees will enjoy FREE beer and heavy hors d’oeuvres, live music, locally-themed artwork, and magnificent views of Hoyt Lake. The event will feature a Hornbeck boat raffle, with one lucky winner taking home the ultra-lightweight Kevlar vessel! Please see attached for additional event details.

Event tickets are $35.00 per guest, which includes appetizers and two free drinks. You can purchase tickets online at bnriverkeeper.org/tickets, or by calling Susan Kornacki at 716-852-7483 ext. 38. All donations directly support our work to restore Scajaquada Creek!

Slow Death of the Humboldt Parkway

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The Buffalo News recently published a great chronicle of the slow death of the Humboldt Parkway, which dates back to the 1940s.  As soon as the project was proposed, criticism was voiced by many, including those who stood to lose their homes, businesses, and neighborhoods.

Despite continued resistance, the Kensington and Scajaquada Expressway were obviously built. The article is a great read and demonstrates the communities continued opposition to the demolition of Humboldt Parkway.

Mayor Brown to Ride Slow Roll Buffalo Parkway Revival Ride

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Great news! Mayor Byron Brown announced today that he will be riding in Slow Roll Buffalo’s Parkway Revival Ride on Sunday, 5/8.

The Slow Roll will depart from the Marcy Casino in Delaware park on Sunday, May 8, at 1 pm.  The ride is a statement for right-sizing the Scajaquada and Kensington Expressways to restore Olmsted’s vision for our city in order to re-knit our community back together—something we have been advocating for since 2001.

Buffalo Cyclists to Cross the Scajaquada

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Photo Credit: Nate Peracciny

Slow Roll Buffalo’s first full season in 2015 was a momentous success, with free weekly community bike rides throughout the city with thousands of participants, spanning from age 5 to 93. To kick-off 2016, we are building on last year’s success. Slow Roll Buffalo organizers, in collaboration with GObike Buffalo, the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition (SCC), and the Restore Our Community Coalition (ROCC), have teamed up to start the Slow Roll Buffalo 2016 season with the Parkway Revival Ride. The ride is a statement for right-sizing the Scajaquada and Kensington Expressways to restore Olmsted’s vision for our city in order to re-knit our community back together—something we have been advocating for since 2001.

“Governor Cuomo’s recent announcements has set the stage for New York State to be a leader in revitalizing our urban landscapes by building quality of life focusing on our community’s health, environment and economic vitality,” stated Justin Booth, Executive Director of GObike Buffalo and member of the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition, “We are happy to partner with the state to make the Parkway Revival Ride a reality highlighting the historic changes in store for a right-sized Scajaquada while demonstrating the continued need to restore Humboldt Parkway and reconnect Delaware Park with MLK Park.”

Shifting from the usual Monday night meeting to Sunday, May 8th, Slow Roll Buffalo will start its second six-month season at Delaware Park’s Marcy Casino (199 Lincoln Pkwy; meet at noon, ride at 1pm). The safety squad of bicyclists—along with a now-standard Buffalo Police Department motorcade—will lead participants onto the Scajaquada Expressway and continue to the Humboldt Parkway for a bike’s-eye view of how decisions made decades ago to change our parkways into expressways have negatively affected the quality of life, prosperity, and environment in the surrounding community while highlighting the commitment Governor Cuomo has made to correcting these past mistakes.

In standard Slow Roll fashion, the entire ride will run approximately 10 miles at a leisurely pace of around 8-10 miles per hour, rolling round-trip back to the Marcy Casino for an afterparty with food, drinks and live music. Beginning Monday, May 16th, Slow Roll Buffalo will return to Monday nights, rolling weekly through October 31st.

“From its birthplace in Detroit to here in Buffalo and beyond, Slow Roll had an amazing 2015, and we’re excited to pick up where we left off,” said Slow Roll Buffalo co-founder Tony Caferro. “The Parkway Revival Ride is only our first statement – while we’ll continue to keep Slow Roll free and fun for all, we’re pushing this social event to take on social causes, with many more to come.”

 

 

Let’s Be Bold: Humboldt Parkway Should be Restored

With Governor Cuomo’s recent announcement of plans to look at the effort and impact for capping the Humboldt Parkway,  and continued plans to calm the Scajaquada, Buffalo’s residents are starting to think seriously about the necessity of our inner-city expressways. Some are coming to the conclusion, like us, that they have outlived their usefulness and should be removed altogether.

In a recent editorial to the Buffalo News, Dr. Steve Lakomy, writes that he believes the Kensington Expressway should be removed in order to fully restore Humboldt Parkway:

While I sympathize with commuters who fear long commute times, their concerns must not be remedied at the expense of one of Olmsted’s masterpieces and at the expense of an East Side neighborhood that is just now seeing tiny sprouts of life in the form of investment. Buffalo’s streets were constructed for over half a million people; they can handle the traffic.

…this is the new Buffalo. Let’s be bold. Let’s shout to the world that we are progressive.

We couldn’t have said it better.

SCC Meeting Minutes 11/3/2015

DOT Meeting Recap

– The DOT is focused on older studies and traffic, instead of new ideas

– The meeting itself was amicable and showed that we are willing to work with the DOT

– DOT only presented bike and pedestrian options, not road options

– We will discuss our Grand Statement and present to the City Council as recommendations

– If the recommendations are approved, we will have an official on record supporting the SCC recommendations

Action Items / Group Progress

– Justin will handle ALL media request.  There will be times that the SCC might not have a comment or might not be able to meet the medias request for an interview but Justin will handle.

– The SCC main meeting are every 2 weeks on Tuesday.  Kerri will send out reminder emails and if you can not attend please advise.  Meeting will not be cancelled as there are always at least 4 / 5 of us that can attend.

– Committee Meetings are to be held as often as the Chair can schedule them, it can be every other month, it’s up to the Chairs discretion.

Steering Committee Public Follow Up

– With nothing to really report, we suggest that if people are interested in what the happens have been to see the SCC website.  It has the most up to date information, including meeting minutes. 

– The PCA can invite any one of the members of the SCC to come and speak on behalf of their group (Justin on behalf of GoBike, etc.)  Because we are a coalition we can all speak on the progress we feel we are making, it doesn’t have to be the Steering Committee alone addressing the public.

Editorial Says No Freeways Through Parks

The Buffalo News published an excellent editorial today by Bradley Bethel examining the importance of a downgraded Scajaquada Expressway. Bethel writes,

“Delaware Park is not just another neighborhood park… Its legacy will far outlast any freeway that impedes through it. Scajaquada’s ongoing remediation is absolutely mandatory for the safety, serenity and strength of Delaware Park, which will ultimately reflect the integrity of our city.”

Read the editorial in full here.

NYSDOT to Solicit Community Comments on Short-Term 198 Plans

The SCC is encouraged by the change in position by the NYSDOT regarding their approach on the short term measures for the former Scajaquada expressway. Our members have been concerned over the location of their proposed crosswalks and approach to the short term improvements. We continue to support the short term measures defined in the 2005 Expanded Project Proposal created by the NYSDOT and City of Buffalo. These plans where community vetted, and supported providing the essential ground work for the path moving forward. (See our 9/30 letter to NYSDOT)

It is with these plans in place that we call on the NYSDOT to immediately hold community meetings to further refine these approaches. We strongly request that no additional time be wasted so a meaningful and productive discussion can be had prior to implementation in early spring, if not sooner. This is an opportunity to transcend the  Scajaquada corridor into a community asset that benefits the neighborhoods, park, cultural institutions and schools that align it.