It seems as if most of Buffalo’s past planning mistakes were made because of handshake deals made behind closed doors. Now, however, we are looking at an unprecedented opportunity to change the landscape of the city, for the better, thanks to the involvement by a number of people/organizations that understand exactly what is at stake when it comes to rethinking the value of the Scajaquada Corridor (including the 198 Expressway and connection to the 33 – Kensington Expressway). For the first time, we might actually be seeing a different type of “community-centric” planning process that will hopefully lead to replacing a transportation scourge with an incredible community asset.
Back in April, we got a glimpse of the possibilities (lead image), when the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition (SCC) unveiled some of the modification possibilities that would help to transform the corridor (see the vision).
New York State Senator Sean Ryan recently joined representatives from the Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council (GBNRTC), Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, and GObike Buffalo to provide an update on what is being termed GBNRTC’s “Region Central” initiative. The update comes in advance of the federal government’s infrastructure investments that are expected to be released to cities looking to tackle these types of significant transportation-oriented projects.
Senator Sean Ryan said, “With Region Central, GBNRTC is completing the most comprehensive study of the Scajaquada Corridor that we have ever seen. We know that whatever plan is ultimately recommended will affect a wide-sweeping range of people throughout Western New York, and that is why we are encouraging everyone to get involved with the process. By combining the results of traffic studies with robust community input, we will soon have a well-reasoned plan for reshaping the Scajaquada Corridor in a way that will reconnect our neighborhoods, correct historic injustices, and improve life for the people of Buffalo for generations to come.”
A study of the neighborhoods that would be impacted by the initiative projects that roughly one-third of Buffalo residents would significantly benefit from an enhanced corridor. Those communities include Black Rock, Delavan Grider, Elmwood Bidwell, Fillmore-Leroy, Grant-Amherst, Hamlin Park, Masten Park, Parkside, and Upper West Side neighborhoods.
Altogether, there is a four-phase community input plan that is being rolled out, which includes a community engagement process that will gather feedback from the greater WNY community.
- The process began with the recently completed “Build the Vision” phase, during which many of the major community stakeholders provided input, and GBNRTC held an initial public meeting
- The ongoing second phase in the process, which will focus on “Refining the Vision,” will continue until October. It includes outreach events and workshops in various neighborhoods within the study area to educate the public about the project and get feedback on the shared vision.
- Future community engagement plans include a public webinar, an online survey, and the creation of a stakeholder advisory group that would meet several times to advise on the project.
“The Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council is firmly committed to completion of a different approach to the planning process for Region Central that is impartial, methodical, and fact-based, with next-generation technical analyses,” said Hal Morse, Executive Director of Greater Buffalo-Niagara Regional Transportation Council. “Through this extensive community involvement process, we will work to build consensus on what we collectively want our region to be like in the coming generations, and also what mobility improvements in this area will drive that change. We have seen a willingness to collaborate and a sense of shared future, and will build upon this to advance community goals and priorities as we plan excellent mobility investments for Region Central.”
Stephanie Crockatt, Executive Director of Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, said, “Thanks to the GBNRTC and staunch advocates like Senator Ryan, engaging the public and building consensus on design alternatives is exactly the task at hand, and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy encourages everyone’s involvement and voice. Let’s learn from past disappointments and use this vital opportunity to come together to develop a solution that is worthy of inspiring other cities across the country – one that embraces quality of life for all residents and makes the next generation proud of our community’s accomplishment.”
“Before us stands the last, best chance in a generation to reclaim our creek and community,” said Jill Jedlicka, Executive Director of Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper. “The decisions we make now as we reimagine the Scajaquada Corridor are directly linked to our ability to heal and restore one of our region’s historically significant waterways and the communities connected to it. It is rare that planning processes like these actively seek and engage robust community input, so let’s make sure our collective voices and priorities are heard, and ultimately implemented.”
“Through our work in the community, we see firsthand the intersectionality of transportation-related decisions on our travel modes, health, environment, community connectedness, and quality of life,” said Justin Booth, Executive Director of GObike Buffalo. “Thus, we’re hopeful the holistic and scientific approach taken by the GBNRTC centering the needs of people in the planning process for Region Central will result in a corridor plan that supports community wellness, local businesses, and active transportation.”
Public meetings and focus groups will continue to be held through the scenario-building stage of the initiative, which is scheduled to begin in September. GBNRTC expects to have a draft of findings and recommendations by December 2021, and plans to share final recommendations for the corridor early in 2022.
Lead image: Connecting SUNY Buffalo State College to the Scajaquada Creek and Black Rock