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6 Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever

Submitted by Luke:

Excellent story [in Gizmodo] about removing freeways from downtown and how it changed the cities forever. I’ve often thought Buffalo should remove the access ramps further away from downtown.

  • Downgrade the Kensington back to Humboldt Parkway between Main Street and Jefferson Street
  • Remove the I-90 all the way back to Hamburg Street in the Larkin District
  • Get rid of the Scajaquada and the Niagara Expressway completely or at least get rid of the Scajaquada and downgrade the Niagara and Route 5 to an Olmsted style Parkway.

Here’s the latest “must read” on successful freeway removals from Gizmodo (read article).


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  • solonggone

    The Humboldt Parkway is never going to happen.  People need to give up that dream.  
    Look at what happened near the medical campus.  Billions were spent and the surrounding areas are improving.  But then they want to come in and do rent control (in a city like Buffalo where it’s dirt cheap) to prevent the neighborhood from ‘changing’ for the benefit of the taxpayer.  
    So now people want hundreds of millions to be spent restoring a parkway?  For what?  It won’t change the neighborhood because those living there will want it to remain cheap.  
    Actions >> Reactions.  Actions and poor policy have consequences.

  • Well, the debbie downer attitudes really won’t help change. Making these happen from within and pressure on local and regional politicians are seeming to help spur development all over buffalo, so I would be optimistic that projects like the skyway, humboldt parkway, and I-190 can and should happen in our lifetime. 
    This would be a great thing to spur valuable real estate in the back yard of one of our best colleges and to our beautiful park system.

  • ajthomas24

    Please, for the love of the city, restore Humboldt parkway! The most underutilized piece of garbage roadway. It’s just a black smear down the backside of the city.

  • With correct concrete bridge spans, and a decent plan, most of Humboldt Parkway can be turned into a tunnel, and green space can be added above, keeping the cross street bridges in place, but just turning a Tunnelled highway from Main Street (Scajaquada 198) down to Best Street.

  • LouisTully

    vantinec Too expensive?

  • teddypiship

    solonggone  I really like your comment, but watch out for all the bleeding heart liberals ready to jump you for making a truthful comment.

  • LouisTully

    ajthomas24 Is it underutilized?  What is the 33 like from the Scajaquada to downtown during peak hours?  The only time I ever use it is off-peak and it isn’t at all congested.

  • Yeah, no doubt that these are expensive projects.

  • LouisTully

    teddypiship solonggoneAnd watch out for the bleeding arse conservatives like Matt R who will want to put it underground along with a spaceport and football stadium.

  • i’m all for depaving and reclaiming our olmsted parkways.  but the way some people react, “congestion” is a more terrifying prospect than typhoid, terrorism, and baby-snatching combined.  like, the worst. thing. ever.

  • jag2

    The federal TIGER grants are out there. It’s a shame so many other cities take advantage of them to remove their freeways while Buffalo just sits in 1960 in perpetuity.

  • needIes

    >”The Humboldt Parkway is never going to happen.  People need to give up that dream.”  
    Nope. This isn’t 1980. Those “dreams” are manifesting as fast as they ever have all over the City. Buffalonians are getting over that mindset as a result.

    >”Look at what happened near the medical campus.  Billions were spent and the surrounding areas are improving.  But then they want to come in and do rent control (in a city like Buffalo where it’s dirt cheap) to prevent the neighborhood from ‘changing’ for the benefit of the taxpayer.”
    And is the result of said “rent control”(it wasn’t rent control btw) for a handful of people really that detrimental in the big picture? 

    >”So now people want hundreds of millions to be spent restoring a parkway?” 

    >”For what?”  
    Um, to fix it. Since we broke it. 

    >”It won’t change the neighborhood because those living there will want it to remain cheap.”
    Yeah, nobody will want their property value to skyrocket.

    >”Actions >> Reactions.  Actions and poor policy have consequences.”
    Yeah, maybe we won’t repeat past mistakes if we figure out they have expensive consequences. I’m actually surprised you utter that last sentence and don’t come to the conclusion that it should be fixed, as a part of those consequences. We shouldn’t just ruin a place and have to live with it for generations. We should fix it and pay the consequences.

  • NorthBuf

    teddypiship solonggoneI’m one of those bleeding heart liberals and I’m all for bulldozing all the residential crap around the medical campus and developing it into something other than a block vote for a opportunistic pastor living off his lies.  There’s plenty of housing for the displaced

  • BuffaloAllStar

    Definitely something that’s needs in numerous places in WNY. Only was it’s going to happen is it there’s an added benefit to removing the infrastructure and putting public land in private hands back on the tax rolls.
    I could see a partial removal of the 33 from DT to maybe the 198 having adding value and then a removal of the 198 from the 33 all the way to Elmwood.
    Dream would be for it to be removed to ease pressure and increase available real estate in a rapidly changing, quickly gentrifying West side by removing the 198 from Elmwood all the way to Niagara. Hopefully in my next lifetime.

  • BuffaloAllStar

    I would say it’s highly underutilized for the majority of the day, @ the times it is in use it’s used heavily. It doesn’t seem like a road that can handle the capacity that’s placed on it daily. It’s passed its prime, I could see a partial removal closer to downtown and the medical campus but further east towards Cheektowaga and the get-toe? Why on earth would we eliminate the 33 there?
    One important topic that comes up in these highway pieces is what’s going to happen with all the vacant land that opens up to development?
    Remove the 190, remove the skyway, remove the 198 and the 33. Who’s going to live there?

  • solonggone

    To simply say it should be fixed because it’s broken is silly.  Everyone knows it’s broken.  But the COB is also BROKE.  
    There needs to be a return on the investment.  That’s my point.  I am all for it being fixed if a return can be generated.  
    But as long as people like Pridgen thinks Billions should be spent and then value should not be created for the city in terms of improved housing stock…there is no reason to invest the money.  Period.

  • yerkster

    yes close all the city expressways then all the good jobs will be in the burbs except of course the govt jobs.

  • yerkster  
    kind of doubt it.  every other city that has removed downtown expressways has seen just the opposite: increased investment, not disinvestment.

  • meatyochre

    buffalo is approaching this vision through adaptive-neglect…many of our roads could revert to gravel paths in just a few desperate winters

  • whateverr

    LouisTully teddypiship solonggone  
    LT>”conservatives like Matt R who will want to put it underground along with a spaceport and football stadium”
    I still don’t get why some people describe Matt R as conservative, or as Marko refers to Matt as tea party.
    Most of Matt’s views on BR seem to me very much on the fiscal left, not at all fiscally conservative, not at all tea partyish…
    examples – his favoring a govt-funded stadium, Peace Bridge truck ban, fawning about Betty Jean Grant who’s far left, wasteful govt spending to remove very useful highways,proposing unneeded govt-funded Pan Am style buildings, advocating corporate welfare to govt-selected industry niches, …
    I wonder what about Matt’s views leads anyone to think conservative or TP.  Any examples from LT or anyone about that?
    Regarding the post’s topic from Luke (who I’d bet is Christy, just sayin) – no, the 190, 33, and Route 5 are all very useful effective popular highways which should remain as such for both residents & businesses who favor them.  
    198 isn’t good as a highway (too curvy, not enough enter/ext lanes, etc) so for that one, changing seems appropriate to something like the DOT-proposed street with 35 or 30 mph limit and 2-lanes each direction, no longer a highway but still capable of say half or 2/3 of the high traffic volume the 198 has now.

  • LouisTully

    whateverr LouisTully teddypiship solonggone  Oh, man.  I have no idea.  You put too much thought into all that.  I was just throwing a worthless comment out there about Matt being conservative so and so because Teddy threw out some liberal frisbees and Matty R loves dishing about liberal this and liberal that.  
    Matt does, however, love suggesting ideas of building all sorts of things underground.  Gotta be some sort of term for that type of infatuation.

  • whateverr
    Regarding the post’s topic from Luke (who I’d bet is Christy, just sayin)…
    i’d bet real money that christylou and matt are one & the same.

  • rockpile38

    grad94 whateverr  To say our expressways will never be eliminated, large portions downgraded or even tunneled I don’t know about that. That means never, not even in 30 + years. But to be honest you have to have an economically viable, cutting edge, high tech city, which Buffalo is far from, to embark on ridiculously expensive projects such as eliminating expressways like the 190, but perhaps downgrading the 198 from Niagara to Parkside could be logical but only if it was turned to an at grade blvd. eliminating the Scaj ramps!

  • rockpile38

    grad94 whateverr Sorry, don’t want to confuse with my comment, the never was in reference to the solonggone’s comment which I respect, I am just saying never is a strong word especially with current urban trends changing around the world.

  • whateverr

    Fair enough, didn’t mean to interrogate, was just curious for reasons mentioned about his so many left-leaning views IMO. ‘liberal this and liberal that’  
    He does that, true, along with bashing ‘neocons’, ‘RINOs’, Carl Paladino, among others. Prolific basher of a pretty wide variety. I wonder how liberals he supports (BJG, Egriu, etc) feel about his lib bashing if they know about it.  Maybe they wouldn’t care.
    “building all sorts of things underground.  Gotta be some sort of term for that type of infatuation”
    hmm, how about Groundhog Syndrome?  It could have a double meaning since some of his silver bullety idea posts used to remind me of the Groundhog Day movie.

  • LouisTully

    whateverr LouisTullyNah no worries.  I just hadn’t put much thought into it.  Just taking a jab at MR and calling out Teddy’s meaningless inclusion of liberals in the discussion.

  • whateverr

    “christylou and matt”
    Much overlap between their views – both very anti-highway, etc, although maybe timeline wouldn’t align for being same person.  
    Christyrockpilesobo has been filling threads here as far back as I can remember of BR’s existence – as Chris69 for long while when I first noticed, and people have mentioned his ‘Lou’ time was before that.  
    I think Matt’s 1st claim to fame was his BN op-ed promising to run vs. Byron for mayor, which would’ve been 2009.
    Then how someone near Matt’s generation would know so much about 1950’s/60’s/etc and be so focused on that like Christy is… (or maybe I’m doing the overthinking stuff again!)

  • whateverr

    ‘saying never is a strong word’
    Yes, saying never for anything is very wild predicting. Instead I try to say something like next bunch of decades, or next few generations.
    For 190/33/5 – I’d predict highway status of those will stay valued by a political/voter majority for as long as most car/truck types of vehicles remain land based.  
    IOW, even if 50 years from now the usage of gasoline/diesel powering for vehicles might be surpassed by a type of battery or hydrogen cells, or big future improvements to ethanol or liquid natural gas, etc, – even then there’d still be need for a highway network here for those to efficiently move around on. Some cities might have overbuilt 
    Far beyond that time frame, say in 2100’s or 2200’s centuries, maybe things now transported on trucks will use cargo drones and maybe most people will move around in some type of flying cars.  Big changes like that could help make highways obsolete.

  • vantinec  There actually is a group dedicated to restoring at least half of Humboldt Parkway in case you’re interested in joining. 🙂

  • LouisTully

    Brad J Bethel Jr vantinecWhat’s the info?

  • LouisTully Brad J Bethel Jr vantinec  It’s called the Restore Our Community Coalition. Different community activists have been involved since 2010, and we have spoken to various local and state officials, including Tim Kennedy over the past year. You may want to call the Science Museum for more details.

  • Nickel City Nick

    meatyochre It’s “creative destruction” at its finest!

  • solonggone

    grad94 yerkster  
    Is increased investment really an obtainable goal for some of the suggestions?  I am all for the logic but increased investment is only created by increased value in the stock surrounding the investment. 
    Say you were to take down the 1-90 as it goes through the city.  Does this mean the development would be scrapped?  After all, that’s a massive amount of land that could be converted to many things of significantly more value than a mixed income development rooted in subsidized housing.  
    What if Pegula got serious about purchasing the Bills and wanted to build a new stadium on that site surrounded by market rate housing, offices and shopping to anchor the other end of a ‘strip’ to his Hockey Project?  
    If you remove ‘Buffalo’ from the formula, that does not seem like a reach.  Keeping Buffalo in the formula, how does James Pitts ‘wet his beak’ so to speak on the poverty of others?

  • rockpile38

    BuffaloAllStar  In the Gizmodo articles they gave examples of capping, would that apply to what would be done to restore that crucial part of Humboldt Pkwy? That I could see happening, it still would be expensive but in that case it would recreate the pkwy reconnecting the neighborhood, helping to boost property values, draw a lot more people down there for the Science Museum, the park, events, architectural tours, Hamlin Park etc., all the while keeping the 33 expressway moving.

  • rockpile38

    I would agree with that notion, and I use the I-90 often, and depend on my car, like a lot of people. But at the same time softening our expressways with the surrounding built in environment is a good step and it appears to be happening slowly. At the same time most people, including you and I would agree downgrading the 198 currently would be something that would make sense as far as a realistic & logical transportation project to focus on. You believe it would be better to be downgraded a bit, when I think it should be a Blvd eliminating the Scaj. Ramps but that’s rockpile38 opinion on that one, not any tunneling or arches, Pan Am Buildings, faux canals, re-gridding entire neighborhoods, The Jetsons flying by, that’s why I don’t understand why you put me with those other guys, I might be a lot of things but I would never back or pitch a project in the city that would not be, number 1 in demand and fiscally possible but in respect to all people of every class that live and visit the region. 
           I do talk up some bold idea’s in rebuilding Buffalo Niagara I’ll admit, but usually they’re general hot button topics like expanding the Metrorail in phases, a new CC near Downtown, preservation, and better infill design. For example, I would go a little further with my support of the 198 being a Blvd it would blend in with what is already great neighborhoods and attractions, Niagara [revitalizing the vacant industrial areas], Grant/Amherst and Blackrock, Elmwood/Buff State, and Parkside, then expand Delaware Park by eliminating the golf coarse or at least to 9 holes giving it back to park goers with a path and natural R&R features instead of being subjected to a gravel path fearing they’re in the way of the golfers. Then, here’s the bold part, cap the underground part of the 33 recreating that stretch of Humboldt Pkwy while keeping the expressway moving, connecting those things together, It’s not totally Olmsted but in modern Buffalo I think something like those ideas are at least nice to ponder. Sorry this was a bit long, but not so much a rant as getting my ideals across even if they come off a bit pipe dreamy, they’re not completely out of whack and disrespectful

  • yostk321

    Along with downgrading the Kensington-King to Humboldt Parkway, extend the restored Humboldt to Elm Street, and the Thruway, either ends of the current Kensignton-King, making between the Thruway and the current 33-198 interchange a “Maryvale Parkway” and also make the Scajacquada a parkway, redirecting it west of the Grant Street Tops over the former Tee-to-Green land and over a new signature bridge, like what was proposed for the scuttled Peace Bridge second span over the Niagara River to the QEW and Thompson Road in Fort Erie.

    Remove the I-190 between Sheridan Drive and Michigan Avenue.  Connect 219 and 400 to 190 at the 190 Thruway interchange, extend 400 to Hinsdale and make it “I-186” from 86 at Hinsdale to Michigan Ave. and do the 219 extension to Salamanca right.  Replace the Skyway with a tunnel or drawbridge and make Route 5 a boulevard from the Inner Harbor to Derby and Athol Springs.  Have a new bridge from the end of Sheridan to the QEW.  Extend 33 from the airport to the Thruway and make it the new Thruway, doing away with the current Thruway between there and the current 90/290 interchange to end the 33/90/290 bottleneck, and start 290 at the 33/90 interchange and make the Cleveland Drive interchange a two-way diamond one.  Extend MetroRail to the Southtowns as well to stop making excuses to keep the Skyway and Route 5 expressway.

  • rockpile38

    whateverr  are already great neighborhoods etc.

  • Spock1

    Luke> “..downgrade the Niagara and Route 5 to an Olmsted style Parkway.”
    I was a big proponent of the Rt 5 portion of this statement when it was debated on this site years ago.  Though I still think the concept has merit, it is tough to argue against retaining the elevated portion of Rt 5 in hindsight, considering all of the investment in logistics and manufacturing within this corridor since the project’s completion.  It’s difficult to envision Ford, Sonwil, Cobey, Flextube etc investing in operations along a non-expressway version of Rt 5 considering they’ve all cited access to highways in their press releases announcing opening or expanding.

  • whateverr

    Very good points about Ford, et al.
    Ford’s trucks frequently carry products it manufactures here for their Ontario assembly plant to/from the Peace Bridge using Route 5, Skyway, 190.  
    And no doubt other businesses you mentioned, among many examples, also benefit from efficiency of that elevated portion of Route 5.  
    I also think people visiting anything along Outer Harbor by car (or bike via say Tift St) also benefit from the heavy pass-through traffic being separated from smaller parallel roadway instead of all combined at grade.  
    IMO, Higgins & NYSDOT got this right while the suggestion from Luke or maybe ChristyLuke wouldn’t.

  • RPreskop

    Why does both Route 5 and Niagara Street have to be Olmsted style. Why not a different design theme rather than imitating something over 100 years ago. It is time for some fresh new urban design ideas for both Route 5 and Niagara Street. Not everything needs to be Olmsted style.

  • RPreskop

    yostk321 Where are you going to get the money to do all these new road projects like extending Route 400 to I-86?  Why can’t Route 400 permanently remain Route 400 why do we have to waste tax money changing a highway route number to I-186 when we have more pressing issues in this area? Where are you going to get the money to convert part of Route 33 by the Airport to the I-90 Thruway? Building a tunnel to replace the Skyway, sounds like a very costly idea to me, where are you going to get the needed funding?

  • RPreskop

    solonggone The last thing we need in this city is rent control to pander to the unmotivated urban poor. If the areas around the emerging medical campus become attractive, popular places to live, than so be it. But all the extremist liberal hens in the democratic party want to keep pandering to the unmotivated urban poor by handing more to them at the expense of the taxpayers. This rent control proposal for the Fruit Belt neighborhood is way over the top. The only way to successfully revitalize the City of Buffalo is to completely purge City Hall of the democratic party and allow moderate republicans and any alternative political party a seat in city council and in the mayor’s chair. Enough of the democrats, they have had monopoly control over this city since the early 60s and we all know what direction this city went under their monopoly leadership. Just because other older northern cities like Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, and Baltimore and most others are totally democratic controlled doesn’t mean that Buffalo has to be monkey see, monkey do by allowing the democratic party monopoly control over city hall. It is time for a major change in Buffalo City Hall, dump the democrats and give the republicans and alternative political parties a chance in governing Buffalo. We have nothing to lose and a lot to gain.

  • RPreskop solonggone  This city’s upward momentum is not going to mean anything in the long term if the most undervalued neighborhoods are out of the picture. In fact, this is giving plenty of incentive to invest in areas that have been ignored for decades.
    The discussion of neighborhood improvement is not a political football, nor should it be.