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A Bold New Plan that is “on the table” would be a Big Win for Buffalo

It was a year ago that number of parties came together for a charette, to discuss what would be best for the Scajaquada Expressway. The result of that coming together is an absolutely fantastic design component that we would be crazy not to implement. I met up today with Stephanie Crockatt, executive director of the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, to discuss this bold vision for the parkscape, where the expressway traverses the S-curves.

Did you know, that for 80 years, the top surface of The Stone Arch Bridge was dedicated to horse and foot traffic. I know that this is hard to imagine, but if our goal is to restore our Olmsted Parks, then this should be a consideration. Someone (the Governor?) could be a real hero here, by enacting this plan, instead of whatever it is that the DOT has in store for us.

The way that this would work is this… Only pedestrians and cyclists would have access to the top of the bridge, which would be a superb connection between the Delaware Park tennis courts and the McMillan Monument at Forest Lawn. This bridge was originally built as an Olmstedian-Vaux bridge similar to one that one might find in Central Park. Cars were never intended to traverse it. It was made for a much more humanized scale. Today the bridge acts as a divider from one side of the park to the other. That was never the intention. Now, we have an opportunity to reconnect the park once again, with this forward thinking plan.

As for Scajaquada auto traffic, it would get diverted down to the S-curves (at grade), where motorists would have the option of continuing on the boulevard, or they could get off at the S-curves. A second land bridge would connect people from the meadow to the lake, while seamlessly connecting The Martin House to the Richardson Olmsted Campus. This is not only doable, it’s essential to this city’s future as a walkable community. People would never encounter traffic, and the ped-bike bridge would become a destination, with park benches, historically accurate lamp standards, etc.

As I mentioned, this proposal, crafted by Olmsted, Riverkeeper and others, has been handed to the DOT. Unfortunately, as we are all aware, with the DOT, it’s their way or the highway. Currently public comments are due by September 22. The plan will be reviewed for 30 days, before being submitted (along with comments) to the Federal Highway Authority. It will then be reviewed, with a decision being made sometime in December. At this point, it does not look like the DOT is in favor of this inspired proposal. Instead it sounds as if they are sticking with the two traffic intersections, because they feel that there are too many cars to handle a plan of this nature. Well, as anyone who understands traffic flow knows, when road diet plans are enacted, cars tend to find other ways around – it’s the basic nature of good, forward thinking planning.

Stephanie Crockatt

Ultimately it would be ideal if we could bring the DOT and stakeholders back together to formulate design solutions from an urban planning standpoint for this community, for tourism, and for improved quality of life,” said Crockatt. “[We] will be urging the DOT to consider this opportunity as a win-win for this important corridor.”

This park is on the National Register. It’s an essential part of our urban fabric. It’s been hacked to pieces over the years, and now we’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to do something great. This is about quality of life. Already there are much fewer accidents on the expressway, with the lower speed limit. Life has continued much in the same way that it has for decades. There’s less noise too. We are seeing the benefits that this one significant change has made. Now, can you imagine if we amplify this urbanist initiative? Let’s hope that the Federal Highway Authority sees the opportunity at hand, and does not simply run with what’s handed to them to expedite the process. The process is already being rammed forward enough – it went from a two year review period to a matter of a few months.

According to Crockatt, this humanizing plan could be enacted via a public-private partnership. “This should be viewed as an opportunity, not a problem,” she said. “It would be embarrassing and tragic for the first urban park system in America, to have this road ripped up, and then to move forward with current plan, which would keep the park divided. What a missed opportunity that would be.”

Written by queenseyes

queenseyes

Newell Nussbaumer is 'queenseyes' - Eyes of the Queen City and Founder of Buffalo Rising. Co-founder Elmwood Avenue Festival of the Arts. Co-founder Powder Keg Festival that built the world's largest ice maze (Guinness Book of World Records). Instigator behind Emerald Beach at the Erie Basin Marina. Co-created Flurrious! winter festival. Co-creator of Rusty Chain Beer. Instigator behind Saturday Artisan Market (SAM) at Canalside. Founder of The Peddler retro and vintage market. Instigator behind Liberty Hound @ Canalside. Throws The Witches Ball at The Hotel @ The Lafayette, and the Madd Tiki Winter Luau. Other projects: Navigetter.

Contact Newell Nussbaumer | Newell@BuffaloRising.com

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  • Mike_Puma

    Yusssss! If we’re still going to be left with this turd of a highway, this is a middle ground I would be happy about getting at the very least.

  • JoeyPepperoni

    “Unfortunately, as we are well aware, with the DOT, it’s their way or the highway.” What a pun, Newell!!

  • Ra Cha Cha

    Newell, are you even aware that exactly a month ago we posted an article about exactly this? Here’s the link: https://www.buffalorising.com/2017/07/scajaquada-cultural-coalition-extends-a-hand-to-dot/

    Also, why are you saying that comments are due on September 22? The comment deadline was August 22, which was on Tuesday (reference: https://www.bfloparks.org/198/ ). If someone has been able to get that extended that’s outstanding, but it would be good to have a definitive answer about that.

    • Tim

      He was at 7-11 that day.

    • Farras09

      I would also like to point out that your article makes it much easier to visually see the changes being proposed.

  • Matthew Ricchiazzi

    Great thinking, but I still think that a complete removal without a replacement would be preferable. A more militant posture with the DOT is necessary to correct the culture problem inside the bureaucracy.

    • PaulBuffalo

      A more militant posture? Do tell.

    • I’m only agreeing with the first part of this comment. It’s either all or nothing. Leaving bits and pieces makes no sense.

  • eagercolin

    “I guess the cars will just go somewhere else” doesn’t count as a plan. The DOT can’t just blithely dismiss reality, as you do.

    • Bradley J. Bethel Jr.

      “The DOT can’t just blithely dismiss reality.”

      The DOT really thinks people are so stupid that they can’t get anywhere in the city without an expressway. They think people are too stupid to figure out other east-west arterials (Delavan, Amherst, Hertel, etc.) to get from “point A to point B”. They think people are too stupid to see how freeway remediation has been successfully applied in other larger cities with even higher volumes of daily traffic.

      The DOT has been ignoring reality for decades.

      • A J Hecha

        The problem is that will only clog those “arterials.” What they should simply do is bury the stupid thing and bring the limit up to 55 again.

        • Bradley J. Bethel Jr.

          The same amount of traffic that is often cited for Scajaquada would be dispered among other east-west corridors that also accomodates bus routes and commercial traffic. The nightmare traffic scenario the DOT keeps peddling is a MYTH, which has already been disproven in other cities with higher volumes of traffic.

          • Farras09

            I am genuinely curious about this being disproven. Do you have an example I can look into?

      • eagercolin

        I’m not interested in defending or badmouthing the DOT. I don’t get worked up about roads.

        My point is simply that the actual responsible parties can’t simply ignore the problems and complications of this plan the way that Newell has.

  • Tim H

    What is the source of this quote?

    “Already there are much fewer accidents on the expressway, with the lower speed limit”

    I’m not sure that is an accurate statement.

    • Matthew Moje

      There was an article on here months ago that had the numbers, that is an accurate statement. I’ll try and find the article

  • Mariann Caprino

    Can you please post instructions on how to submit comments to DOT on this fabulous plan, or a link, so that we can all voice our support?

  • mediumriser

    So all that traffic will be moved to side streets kool ! Hope that will piss off the marshmallows, that have been crying like little babbies in the area !

  • robert biniszkiewicz

    This should absolutely be done. I’ve been advocating for years. But not optimistic with DOT.

  • nuvaux

    This mess has already been rejected absolutely. DOT’s plan is fine.

  • Matthew Moje

    DOT commented on this plan and found it very tough to consider: 1) It would take away more parkland. (3 acres roughly) 2) There is an Indian burial ground nearby so to get approval to remove or do construction there would take an act of god.

    I’m all for the conservancy’s plan but you also have to be realistic

    • aojwny

      But the Conservancy also adds back considerable parkland, which DOT neglected to mention. They also neglected to mention that there plan installs a great deal more paving immediately adjacent to one of the most heavily used parts of the park, the soccer and baseball fields and the Point of the Meadow shelter house. Putting a huge intersection there would be a disaster. This plan moves all that traffic away from that highly used part of the park. And this plan reconnects the park, making it much more user friendly, and opens up acres of parkland which were totally inaccessible in the cloverleaves, another fact DOT blithely ignored.

      • Matthew Moje

        I may be wrong but I believe in their most recent plan they took out the huge intersection and I didn’t see anywhere that the conservancy would add parkland in their plan.

        • aojwny

          1. You gain all the land the present road is on from the eastern point of the present east bound ramp from Delaware Ave. to past where the present southbound ramp to Delaware is, including the area over the bridge, 2. All the land that the present ramps are on (except where the relocated road goes), just as in the DOT calcs of their increased parkland, 3. The new land area of the second land bridge, and 4. the area of USABLE parkland currently trapped by the cloverleaf, half of which is still trapped in the DOT plan by their connector road, all of which becomes eminently usable in the Conservancy plan.

          • Farras09

            What about the burial ground?

          • aojwny

            It can likely be avoided, although I’m not sure it’s a burial ground, they just mentioned an archaeological site, as I recall. That would have to be worked out in the design process for sure.

  • mightyNiagara

    Ha! hahahaha. in a dream world. great.
    80 years ago, did you know pretty much ALL the roads were accommodated horse and foot traffic? I know it’s hard to believe.

    A better plan would involved removing the road that exists between elmwood and parkside, joining 1.7miles of park land. That’s 1.7miles which the public can “cross” the old road barrier without a bridge. aka, remove the 198, it’s entirety.

  • nuvaux

    Does nobody recognize the fact that the DOT is going to “downgrade” this to a 30mph street, with traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, and even bicycle lanes? There will be no more “Expressway”. The DOT is proposing to do exactly what ‘we’ wanted. The idiots (sorry, but they deserve it) who make up Olmsted came up with this stupid, expensive, impossible plan after 2 years & just before the deadline. The DOT is not going to build a huge detour, with an expensive new bridge, just so there can be a fantasy grass-covered bridge usable by barely 1% of the population.

  • nuvaux

    :between the Delaware Park tennis courts and the McMillan Monument at Forest Lawn.”

    The McMillan memorial is not in Forest Lawn. Why is “Queenseyes” so sadly ignorant?

  • Chris

    I think it’s great plan if you can add right turn merge lanes, traffic circle, or some other means to keep traffic flowing at Delaware Ave rather than backed up at yet another traffic light. I’ve heard a lot of assumptions about traffic being evenly distributed to side streets without a problem if you just remove the 198. Not true! Ask those of us who live in the Parkside neighborhood after the “calming” measures were implemented. My side street is a freeway during rush hour and Parkside Ave has idling engines in place of moving traffic. (not good for drivers, residents, or the environment) It’s an unpleasant fact that traffic, like trash, needs to go somewhere as long as we keep creating it. This plan seems to have potential to reconnect the park AND improve traffic flow. I don’t believe the two goals to be mutually exclusive.

  • Reed Stevens

    Garbage and Half measures. This plan has merits but it is not enough. Has anyone discussed, considered, looked at or quoted the cost BURY the 198 from David’s statue to Main. All I have heard is that “it is too expensive”. It would be 1.2 miles of tunnel or what is called cut & cover. I worked on the Lite Rail Cut and Cover in 1982 and while we can all debate the value of that 4.5 mile project, a 198 with a land bridge over it has merit. It would connect the two parks, allow removal or down sizing the DPW station, and as well help the Main & Humbolt intersection by replacing it with a traffic circle and restoring the Parkside Traffic circle all while allowing full speed East/West transit across the city. Yes, perhaps expensive but this is thing that governments are suppose to do. Witness the Seattle Olympic Park SAM land bridge among other cities. I welcome your thoughts. This is an opportunity to get this right.