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Hoping federal dollars could fix transportation mistakes of past

"We’ll be able to right the wrongs of the past"
33 .jpg
Posted at 5:43 PM, Apr 02, 2021

BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — “A scar right through the east side neighborhood in the city of Buffalo that not only created an economic injustice, but a racial injustice,” declared state Senator Tim Kennedy.

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A wall along the Kensington Expressway divided Humboldt Parkway.

More than five decades after construction of the Kensington Expressway that ripped through Humboldt Parkway in Buffalo’s inner city there is potentially hope for change.

Many believe the 33 created disparity after it was built.

While the inbound 33 can take you from the 198 to downtown Buffalo in a little over three minutes, long-gone is a once tree-lined neighborhood parkway that extended into the Olmsted Park system.

The Kensington Expressway was built in the early 1960's.

“And the east side of Buffalo has been cut in half by this superhighway because of bad decisions that were made decades ago,” Kennedy remarked.

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Drive along the inbound 33 into downtown Buffalo.

But President Biden's massive $2-trillion infrastructure plan is designed to help cities like Buffalo that made transportation mistakes.

“With this massive infusement of federal highway funding, we’ll be able to right the wrongs of the past,” Kennedy noted.

Kennedy says for years he and others, like the Restore Our Community Coalition have been pushing for restoring Humboldt Parkway.

“Would you actually try to get rid of that?,” asked Buckley.

"We’ve actually advanced, through the department of transportation, is a reconnecting of the community through a decking program that allows for green space and public access as well as pedestrian and bicycle access,” Kennedy explained.

Sign over the 33 Expressway.

Kennedy is chair of state Senate transportation committee. The 33-is a state highway under the state Department of Transportation (DOT).

Kennedy says the federal highway bill would pay for 80-percent of the price tag for massive projects, like the 33, state and local communities would then need to shell out 20-percent.

“How does the state dot work with you on that?,” questioned Buckley.

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Inbound 33 Expressway divided city neighborhood.

“What the Biden Administration advancing this infrastructure program does is allows us to fast track the federal 80-percent match — what we need to do on state level is make sure we are there as well as the local community,” Kennedy replied.

“My hope is that Washington comes through for us and when they do — we'll be ready to provide improvements in ever corner of the city,” said Michael Finn, commissioner, Buffalo’s Public Works & Streets Department.

Finn and Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says the federal funding will be used on many projects across the city to improve all neighborhoods.

Buffalo's Humboldt Parkway neighborhood.

“We’re going to invest right in the city proper. We’re going to invest in the things people feel need to be improved,” Brown stated.

Right now, it's unclear how much federal funding will come to buffalo. but mayor brown says he was told it could be "significant".