When it comes to downgrading urban highways in the US, Buffalo has got to be at the bottom of the pack. In early 2018, the community won a hard fought battle against the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT), to redesign the transportation agency’s inept plan for Route 198, running from Parkside Avenue to Grant Street (2.2 miles). The community, elected officials, and numerous organizations, rallied to get the DOT to further examine the downgrading possibilities of the roadway, which resulted in the regrouping of the state agency to go back to the drawing board.
The Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy is hoping to convert the stone bridge that traverses the S-curves to a pedestrian walkway. There is also hope that the DOT will use this time to extend the plan at least to Main Street.
Much of the reasoning behind the community’s push for further downgrading stemmed from knowing that motorists will always go faster than posted speed limits, which means that if a 30 or 40MPH limit is posted, drivers will go 40 or 50mph. That equates to cars continuing to speed down the roadway, as we can plainly see in Route 198’s interim 30MPH stage. Downgrade advocate Dan Cadzow has been keeping a close eye on the designated 30MPH roadway, and has demonstrated that unless the DOT gets serious about the issue, Route 198 will continue to be dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians.
The following sentiments are from Cadzow, who sent along the lead image as a demonstration that cars continue to speed along Route 198, despite the imposed 30MPH speed limit.
If you look closely, the orange cone is sitting on the base of where the light post stood -in the park, beyond the guardrail. The vehicle that struck this was massive, going incredibly fast, or both.
This is the same spot where three-year-old Maksym Sugorovskiy was killed, and his sister, Stephanie, was seriously and permanently injured in May of 2015. This is the same spot where the Bergmann Associates April 19, 2014 Accident Graphic illustrated three other vehicles also left the expressway, entered the park, and resulted in injuries or death.
I’m pretty sure that graphic covered only three years prior to the release of that graphic. If I remember correctly, three years is what the DOT reported in the 2005 Expanded Project Proposal and in the DEIS, so the same is probably true for that graphic. If we could FOIA the collision history of the entire expressway since its construction, we would probably be shocked at the magnitude of tragedy that has resulted from this dangerously designed road.
Knowing there is a dangerous situation, having the ability to fix it, and failing to do so is the definition of liability. The incredibility high numbers of crashes along this roadway illustrate how negligent NYSDOT has been over the past half century. The occurrence of crashes like this are evidence that NYADOT continues to fail at designing a safe roadway -despite calls from the impacted communities and Governor Cuomo.
What makes all these tragedies even more sorrowful is the fact that this expressway is not just obsolete, it was never needed in the first place. Those that are behind these needless tragedies need to be held accountable. Not just for those that have already fallen to their negligence, but for those that can still be saved from it.