The “short-term” traffic-calming measures being made to the Scajaquada Expressway will likely be in place for at least the next three years before any long-term plans are made, Assemblyman Sean M. Ryan, D-Buffalo, said Wednesday.
Ryan told the audience that packed the auditorium of the Buffalo History Museum that short-term changes, including pedestrian crossings, narrower lanes and “permanent” guard rails, should all be completed by the end of the summer, and will continue to be in place for several years.
Wednesday marked the first public meeting hosted by the Scajaquada Corridor Coalition. Members of several local advocacy groups and city officials were on hand to discuss upcoming plans. They included Mike DeLuca of the Parkside Community Association and Justin Booth, executive director of GoBike Buffalo. Officials repeatedly said discussions regarding long-term plans will continue, and more public meetings will be held before any master plan is created.
“We’re not going to snap (our fingers) and next summer have a brand new parkway,” Ryan said.
The assemblyman said the roadway needs at least $150 million in renovations and updates because of its age and condition and changing the roadway will come with a hefty price tag regardless of any final decisions.
DeLuca said officials are working on declassifying the road from a highway to a parkway, so bikers could legally ride on the road. Currently, it is illegal for bikers to commute on the expressway. DeLuca said he hopes that change would occur in the next month.
Booth said conversations about “right-sizing” the roadway have been going on for years.
In 2004, the DOT proposed plans that included bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, roundabouts, and a 30 mph speed limit. By March 2013, all of those suggestions were removed from the alternatives, and the planned speed limit was 45 mph.
Four subcommittees were formed at the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting to encourage more community discussion. The subcommittees are outreach/advocacy, design, government relations and events.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo lowered the speed limit on the Scajaquada from 50 mph to 30 mph on May 31, one day after a vehicle left the expressway and fatally injured 3-year-old Maksym Sugorovskiy on a nearby pathway in Delaware Park.
Ryan has previously said he hopes the speed reduction is permanent.
During Wednesday’s discussion, Buffalo resident Leon Arrindell said he feels decisions have already been made without soliciting community comment. He said a referendum for the community, in addition to public meetings, would allow the community to express its feelings about the proposed changes to the roadway.
“It seems they came in like it was already a done deal,” Arrindell said.
Arrindell said officials aren’t considering the additional traffic that exists when school is back in session and in the wintertime.
Dave Baker, who lives on Parkside Avenue, said a few extra minutes on the highway makes a difference in the daily commute, and adding crosswalks to the road could invite jaywalkers and potential pedestrian accidents. His suggestion was to set the speed limit at 40 mph and add concrete barriers to create a safer atmosphere.
Other members of the community, like lifelong Buffalo resident Barbara Cady, don’t understand why people are getting upset over the decreased speed limit.
“It’s not like they’re closing the Scajaquada,” Cady said. “The governor did a wise thing decreasing the speed limit and it needs to stay.”