BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) — The New York State Department of Transportation is seeking public input on ten options for the future reconstruction of a section of the Kensington Expressway that would restore a Buffalo neighborhood ripped apart by the highway in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“This highway is a physical representation of the segregation that has existed in east Buffalo,” stated Marie Therese Dominguez, commissioner, NYS Department of Transportation.
Commissioner Dominguez calls the section of the 33 Expressway in Buffalo a “relic” that has divided east Buffalo for decades.
A DOT team answered questions Thursday during a public scooping process for the Kensington Expressway Project at the Buffalo Museum of Science on how a section of the Route 33 would be transformed back into a parkway.
The state DOT is presenting 10-options that they say were created based on community feedback. Concepts five, six, and seven calls for a tunnel covering a stretch of the 33 from Best to East Ferry.
“The full cover is being proposed as a response and actually taken into consideration to comments we have received,” Nicolas Schoubah, chief engineer, State DOT.
The goal is to restore the original Olmsted vision of a tree-lined parkway to reconnect this Humboldt Parkway neighborhood.
“Honestly, I think that the possibility to reconnect doesn't exist,” responded Cliff Bell, former Buffalo common Council Member.
Bell has been in the community his entire life, now almost 93 years old. He tells me development is what's needed.
“I don't care how much money they spend changing the Expressway. There's certain economic development and ownership and opportunities for service that still don't exist within African American communities, so reconnect what,” Bell remarked.
Any tunnel over that section of the 33 would need to be ventilated.
“The details of where the ventilation takes place — that's all going to be worked out in coordination and communications with the community as we develop greater detail,” noted Schoubah.
“But I’m concerned about the pollution. How much percent of pollution still will be rising and I believe that is affecting our neighborhood in a not very good manner,” explained Dwayne Jones, pastor.
Jones says he wants to make sure the project also helps reconnect the east Buffalo community to more development and improved home values.
Homeowner Nina Badger agrees. She owns a home on Humboldt at Riley. She's worried about one option that calls for roughly five homes to be demolished for air filtration.
“The biggest concern for me is that they don't try to take any homes specifically mine for Eminent Domain and offer fair market value,” said Badger.
Still, Badger says she's very happy about the plans and thinks it's a wonderful project.
“We’re going to live in a beautiful neighborhood. Think of Delaware Park — the Olmsted Park will be restored to its former glory. I think you've got to keep your eye on the prize,” reflected Badger.
The DOT says cost ranges from $675 million to $ 725 million.
Department of Transportation officials says once construction begins it could take three to four years for competition.
That raises questions about how traffic would move through the Expressway.
“Based on the traffic volume, we envision the tunnel to be built one barrel at a time so to speak, so yes — we'll put them on one side. If we have to widen temporarily or use some of the shoulders that exist today that would be the case,” described Schoubah.
As for the residents dealing with the nearby construction, Badger said she’s not too worried about it.
“Living through construction — I think it can be loud, but I have three small children so I don't think it gets louder than that,” remarked Badger.
You can review all the options and information at this DOT webpage.