The more people I talk to, the more that I feel that the Department of Transportation (DOT) is going to drop the ball on the Scajaquada Corridor. While many people have hope that someday the Delaware Park thoroughfare will become a boulevard that will help to tie the city together by reuniting neighborhoods, they also realize that the DOT is not in the business of creating safe, walkable and bikeable communities, therefore will do the very least that they can for people, and the most that they can for automobile traffic.
Can you imagine being able to easily walk from the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, along a sidewalk that hugs the boulevard, until you reach a pedestrian crosswalk that takes you (and your family) across the Scajaquada Boulevard, where you would find access points to the Scajaquada Creek? In a perfect world, this would be the way things work. Unfortunately, we’re not dealing with planners that care about a perfect world.
Speaking of which, why is the DOT mainly left to their own devices when it comes to planning in the first place? Why is there not a consortium of planners that come to the table, to speak for the citizens – planners that speak for Buffalo State, the Albright-Knox, Olmsted Parks, the History Museum, Burchfield-Penney, and all the rest of the vested groups that are located along the expressway? Why is it that the only time we ever find out what the DOT has planned is at a public meeting, when we discover what they are doing, and what they are not doing? It’s always like a ‘big surprise’ type of meeting when the DOT says something like, “After listening to the public’s concerns, we’ve come up with THIS plan.” Where is the process? The DOT doesn’t want input from the community. It’s only because of a terrible accident that anything really changed. At first it was going to really change, but as time goes on, and the roar from the community dies down, how much is it actually going to change?”
While cities around the world are looking at opportunities to significantly calm traffic, and take back their parks and waterfronts, why must we continually battle the DOT to do what is right for this city and its people? Why aren’t Buffalo politicians that claim to be uber progressive when it comes to the way cities are supposed to work (see recent example), showing up at these meetings and demanding the best plans for the people who live in this city?
I asked Kerri Machemer, Founder of Parents of a Safe Delaware Park, to jot down some of her thoughts, regarding an upcoming Public Information Meeting (see info below). I asked her what she hoped that she would hear, and what she expected to hear, at the meeting. This is what she came up with:
- We hope that the DOT will open up the scope of the Scajaquada Project to include the entire stretch of the road from the I-190 to the 33.
- Focus will include Planning, not just Transportation Goals
- Short term plans (crosswalks, bike paths, removal of center guard rail, permanent 30mph signs, and Gateway Signs) to have a time table and community input. Instead of unsafe placement and implementation of crosswalks without community input.
- Update on the reclassification of the roadway.
- The DOT will stick to the current Parkside Ave to Grant Street scope
- The DOT is not interested in Planning. Their focus is moving traffic.
- Discussion of short term goals with no timelines or concrete plans to move forward
- No update of the reclassification
Parents for a Safe Delaware Park (PSDP) is hoping the Albany NYSDOT office will take over the project from the Buffalo District office. The representatives from Albany seem to genuinely want positive change for this project. The removal of the West-Side Highway and the Inner Loop in Rochester are examples of the DOT working with the community to create positive and lasting changes.
Community input is the key to seeing this change move forward. Much like Canalside, the community has a chance to tell lawmakers and the DOT how they would envision the future of this area and the neighborhoods involved. If a Planning approach is taken anything is possible, including a Riverwalk along the Scajaquada Creek, a Historic Pathway from the 1812 Naval Yard to the burial site of the soldiers in Delaware Park. Imagine the Elmwood Village and Buffalo State residents able to safely cross to Wegmans and the Grant / Amherst Business District. Bike access on the road. Bus routes that run from the River to the Zoo. Removal of the raised portion of the Scajaquada would increase land values of the empty and vacant properties, and increase the probability that they will be repurposed. Terminating the Scajaquada Parkway at Niagara St. would help boost the economic revival of Niagara Street, Riverside and Black Rock.
These are all hopes. The reality is that the Buffalo DOT is stuck in its ruts. We need the economic leaders of our area to stand behind groups like the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition and get involved for positive change. We need the younger generations to get involved and demand the change they deserve.
I have hopes that our elected officials will throw their full support behind their electorate. I have hopes that the DOT will embrace this opportunity and do what is right, not what is easy. I have hope…
New York State Department of Transportation Public Information Meeting re Scajaquada Corridor (NY Route 198) Project
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
7 to 8:30 pm
Buffalo State College
Bulger Communication Center (Bulger North Hall)
1300 Elmwood Avenue
Buffalo, NY 14222
1300 ELMWOOD AVENUE BUFFALO, NY 14222
Doors will open at 6:30 pm
The formal presentation will begin at 7 pm