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Letter: Buffalo must seize chance to honor Olmsted heritage

Buffalo must seize chance to honor Olmsted heritage

Several letters have criticized the decision to spend $100 million to redesign the Scajaquada Expressway, linking that decision solely to the tragic accident that occurred last spring. One even chided Assemblyman Sean Ryan as a politician never passing up the opportunity to spend our taxpayer dollars. I would like to respond and clarify the discussion.

Route 198 has been in need of redesign and repair for many years. The dialogue has been ongoing for 15 years, having been the subject of an extensive engineering study jointly done by the state Department of Transportation and the City of Buffalo. The plans generated by that study stalled, but the road continued to deteriorate. In the meantime, the DOT largely ignored pleas to reunite the halves of the park and resisted efforts to lower the speed limit. Its rebuilding of the roadway to accommodate modern standards needed to be done and was going to cost about $100 million. So that amount was going to be spent anyway.

But now we have a better way to spend that money, which recognizes the importance of the park. Does it go far enough? I don’t believe so. Does it address the awful connection to the Kensington Expressway or the blighted connection to the Niagara Thruway? No. Much remains to be done for a truly all-encompassing redesign of this project. Design forums are scheduled by the DOT for the coming months for input, and local citizens groups are discussing what type of road design would be best for the community. Now is the time to give positive input.

Perhaps we can take solace in the fact that the Niagara County Legislature recently voted to change the name of the Robert Moses Parkway to the Niagara Scenic Parkway, withdrawing endorsement of the “master builder” whose legacy was to steal much of what was beautiful about New York State in his quest for automobile access. We have a historic opportunity to return beauty to our roadways and respect our internationally recognized Olmsted heritage.

Anthony O. James